Grant Writing William F. Stenson, MD by ramhood16


									     Grant Writing

William F. Stenson, MD
            Funding Agencies
• Department of Agriculture, Department of
• Private disease oriented foundations: Cancer
  Society, Heart Association
• Private Foundations with broader scope:
  Howard Hughes
• Industry
             Kinds of Grants
• Individual investigator driven research grants
• Training Grants
• “K” Awards
• Program Projects
• RFAs (Requests for Applications)
• Contracts
  Structure of a Grant Proposal
• Specific Aims: A statement of the hypothesis to be
  tested and a summary of the proposed studies (1
• Background: A review of the current state of
  knowledge relevant to the proposal (3-4 pages)
• Preliminary Data: To demonstrate feasibility (7-8
• Research plan: A detailed description of the
  proposed studies including rationale (12-14 pages)
           Study Design
• The study should be designed to answer a
  specific and easily articulated question
• Each experiment should be easily related
  to the question addressed by the study
            Review Process
• You submit proposal
• Proposal is assigned to a study section
• Proposal is assigned to three reviewers (each
  reviewer writes reviews on 12-15 proposals)
• Each reviewer writes a review and assigns a score
• The lower 50% of grants are not discussed and not
  scored (triaged)
• The upper 50% of grants are discussed by the
  entire study section and given a score
• The score is percentiled
• Grants are funded up to the pay line
            Study Sections
•Reviewers may have expertise in the
general area but not have expertise in the
specific topic of your proposal.
•Review process is partially on the
merits of the individual grant but
partially on its merits relative to the
other grants under review.
         Structure of a Review
•   Significance
•   Approach
•   Innovation
•   Applicant
•   Environment
•   Overall evaluation
       Reviews and Rebuttals
• You will get a copy of the reviewers
• The critiques may or may not be
  consistent and may or may not be helpful.
• A good to critique will tell you if it is worth
  your effort to reapply and , if it is, will tell
  you what changes you need to make
• If you decide to reapply you need to
  respond to the critiques
      Questions Reviewers Ask
• Who cares? Is there an important question being
• How does the proposal fit with what is known already?
• Is there a testable hypothesis?
• Do the proposed studies test the hypothesis? Do the
  proposed studies address all the potential explanations or
  just the ones that fit with the investigator’s prejudices?
• Is there sufficient preliminary data to support feasibility?
• Are the reagents available?
• If I were doing this study would I do it differently?
     Reasons for Poor Scores
• Not an important question
• No hypothesis
• The studies proposed will not test the
• Feasibility issues
• Insufficient preliminary data. The proposal
  is “premature”.
              Asking a question that isn’t
• A common reason for rejection of grant applications is that the
  reviewer thinks the question being addressed is uninteresting or
  unimportant or at least less interesting than competing proposals
• The reviewer may not articulate this opinion because it sounds
  arbitrary and so he articulates other more acceptable but less candid
• You should be able to articulate the question being addressed
   – Is it interesting?
   – Do others find it interesting?
   – Can you amend it to make it more interesting?
   – Can you write a paragraph explaining why your question is
      Not having a testable hypothesis

• The study should be designed to answer a specific and
  easily articulated question
• Problem: No hypothesis
• Problem: A hypothesis that nobody cares about
• The hypothesis should generate the research plan not the
  other way around
• Most good projects if successfully completed, will generate
  more and better questions
    Having a reasonable hypothesis but having
    specific aims that do not test the hypothesis

• Each Specific Aim should be easily related to the
  question addressed by the study
• Ideally the Specific Aims should outline the best way to
  address the central question
• Avoid doing studies just because you know how to do
  them if they do not address the central question
• Ask yourself “If I did everything that I propose what would
  we know that we don’t know now”
• Before you start a project write up a “Specific Aims” page
  and have it reviewed
 Starting something new rather than building
             on what is available
• Take advantage of the resources available
• Take advantage of other peoples work
• It is easier to develop a research plan for a project
  that is a logical extension of other work than to
  start something new
• Reviewers like to say “This proposal is a logical
        Failure to use the right models
• The model you are familiar with may not be the
  appropriate model to answer your questions
• The reviewer will ask:”If I was trying to answer this
  question, what would I do?”
• There is a temptation to use the technology that you are
  familiar with rather than the technology that is
  appropriate to the question
• An in vitro study should model an in vivo event
• Before you start a project you should be able to write a
  paragraph explaining why you chose the model including
  the alternatives you considered and the limitations of the
  model you have chosen. The reviewer will write a
  paragraph on the limitations of the model, you might as
  well beat him to the punch.
  Asking for help too late or from the wrong
    people. Asking the wrong questions.
• It is easy to ask advice of people you like and feel
  comfortable with. It is more useful to ask people who
  know the answers.
• It is usually better to get advice from people who have no
  interest in your good will or in protecting your psyche.
  They are more likely to tell if your ideas are flawed and
  therefore keep you from wasting your time.
• Bad question: “ My grant is due Tuesday, would you
  please look at it?”
                   Good questions:

• Here are brief outlines of three potential projects. Can you
  help me pick the one that is most important? most
  innovative? most likely to be carried to a successful
• I have an idea/some preliminary data. What would it take
  for me to make this into a publishable paper/a fundable
  grant application over the next 6 to 12 months?
• I have a general interest in _________ and a certain period
  of time for research. Can you help me design a project
  that fits my interest and the time available?
Being too innovative or not innovative enough

• A common reviewer’s criticism is that there is little new in this
  proposal (even where the innovation is obvious to the applicant)
• Make sure you can articulate what is innovative. Before you start a
  project you should be able to write a paragraph describing how it is
• Review the innovation question with somebody who is knowledgeable
  before you start.
• You can also be too innovative. Most reviewers are conservative and
  are more supportive of incremental progress than of paradigm shifts
 Inability to adjust the scope of the project to
   the manpower/time/resources available:
• Predictable result: project is too ambitious
  and is never completed
• In clinical studies it is easy to underestimate
  the “ n “ required and to overestimate the
  “ n “ you have access to: Sentences that
  begin “I don’t think we would have any
  trouble recruiting ________” are almost
  always wrong
  Making bad decisions in study design (or making
    decisions without realizing you are making
• Analyze your study design to determine what decisions you
  have made (what model to use, what methods to use, time
  points, concentrations, controls, number of samples)
• It is better to do this analysis during the design phase when
  you can still change things
• Identify those decisions that may need to be
• For each decision you should be able to write a sentence
  that begins: “We chose to
            Reviewer comments

• “It is not clear why the applicant/author chose
• You can avoid these comments with sentences that
  start “We chose to do ____________ because
    Overstating the clinical relevance of the
• If your proposal is truly relevant to a disease you
  should make the case

• If your proposal is only indirectly related to a
  disease do not try to play up the clinical relevance
  because it sounds contrived and opens you up to
  criticism for the absence of clinical relevance
 Failing the “Seriousness” question
• Applicants who are serious about careers
  as investigators tend to have a pattern to
  their training and career development that
  speaks to a certain level of commitment
  and forethought
• Reviewers do not write about this but they
  think about it
      How Much is Enough?
• You can always do more, you can always do
• You do not want to propose studies that are
  beyond the scope of the money and time
  available. Reviewers will say that the proposal is
  overly ambitious
• It is usually better to study a small area in depth
  than to scratch the surface of a larger area.
  Reviewers talk about proposals that are
  mechanistic (good) or descriptive (bad).
       Improving your chances
• Seek advice from investigators who have been
  successful in getting funding from the same source
• Seek help at the very earliest phase of the process (
  3 months or more before the due date)
• Figure out if your “pedigree” and your career
  stage fit with the grant
• Don’t underestimate the reviewer’s intelligence
  but don’t overestimate his knowledge of your
    Your mentor should be able to:

• Help you formulate a question that is important and
• Help you design a research plan which will test the
  hypothesis and that you can carry out with the resources
  and time available
• Meet with you often enough that you don’t get bogged
  down or lose focus.
To have a better research experience
• Ask questions that are important and interesting
• Ask questions you can answer with the
  manpower/time/resources available
• Constantly reassess what you are doing to make sure you
  are on track
• Learn to finish
• Learn to write

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