Tips on NIH grant writing

David Nemazee TSRI

say the words Be succinct as possible.feel for the reader Be plausible.preliminary data/ citations Manage the relationship between the solid/boring and the exciting/speculative .even to the non-specialist Be explicit.General points ‡ ‡ ‡ ‡ ‡ ‡ Be interesting Be clear.

NIH format ‡ ‡ ‡ ‡ ‡ Abstract (fixed) Hypothesis and Specific Aims (1-2 pages) Background and Significance (3-4 pages) Preliminary Results (3-8 pages) Research Design and Methods (10-15 pages) .

Abstract ‡ ‡ ‡ ‡ Write last Why is the topic important? What are the Aims and long term goal? This should be the most carefully written part of the grant. ‡ Examples can be accessed in the CRISP database .

as part of an argument for why your proposal is important. It is also helpful to point out where appropriate which of the upcoming Aims addresses certain gaps in our understanding. Accentuate what is important to know and understand.Background/Introduction ‡ This section must be very carefully tailored to the project being introduced. and why. . ‡ Include Figure of your working hypothesis.

Preliminary data ‡ ‡ ‡ ‡ Establish your expertise Establish your strengths Establish the plausibility for the hypothesis Establish the feasibility of an unusual proposed method/approach ‡ The data must be clear. but can be incomplete or open to interpretation .

Hypothesis ‡ Should be clear ‡ If complex. use pictures to illustrate ‡ Two competing hypotheses are better than one! .

Reuse sentence in body of grant and abstract. ‡ Aims should complement each other.The Aims ‡ How many? ‡ Put each Aim in a single short sentence. ‡ What order? Go from most developed to least developed. . should NOT be contingent on each other.

Structure of an individual Aim ‡ Brief more than a paragraph The main purpose is to remind the reader of the wider rationale. but then to explain the choice of approach. .

Individual Aim ‡ Approach.avoid gory technical detail (if necessary provide a Methods section).) . What is the key point? what are the key controls? What back-up approaches will be used? What complementary approaches will be used? (Often these are taken up in the other Aims.

problemsgrapple directly with potential problems. because you have special expertise. e. . because the method is routine. Tables of expected outcomes are effective here.Individual Aim ‡ Expected outcomes.g.. but also state affirmatively why you think a approach is likely to work. caveats. do not minimize them.

you must cut stuff out! . do not roam far afield. ‡ If you can fit in the page limit with 12pt font. ‡ Tailor the introduction to fit the project. ‡ Break up the text with effective headers. ‡ Underscore important points.Style points ‡ Use simple declarative sentences. Clarity is more important than style. data pictures.

. ‡ For example: ³This Aim is important because«. and what needs to be further stressed.´ ³This experimental approach is likely to work because«´ ³This caveat is not a grave concern because«´ ‡ Let a smart friend in a different field read the grant--you¶ll be surprised at what was unclear..Style points (continued) ‡ Say the words.

Common mistakes ‡ No explicit hypothesis ‡ Not making the case for why the question is interesting ‡ Not separating the Aims into natural units ‡ Not explaining what experimental outcomes are expected and what will be done if certain key experiments don¶t work .

but can never prove the hypothesis.establishing correlations may be important for establishing the plausibility of a hypothesis.ultimately an experimental system must be manipulated to test a hypothesis.Common mistakes (continued) ‡ Correlative research. ‡ Paranoia.get feedback from colleagues. ‡ Descriptive research. .

What are the numbers of candidates you expect? How will they be prioritized? How many will be worked up and how? What criteria will be used? ‡ Excessive length/ technical detail (standard methods can be cited) .Common mistakes (continued) ‡ Special comment on DNA array experiments.