Published January 18, 2023
For Early Stage Investigators — and even those with many years of experience — knowing where to turn for assistance with grant proposals can be difficult. To help streamline the process and to provide answers to frequently asked questions, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) offers multiple resources that offer useful insights.
Jamie Mihoko Doyle, PhD, Program Director, Division of Clinical Innovation, Clinical and Translational Science Awards (CTSA) Program Branch, Education and Training Section, National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences, National Institutes of Health, manages a portfolio of CTSA Program grants and works closely with hubs like the University at Buffalo Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI).
“There are many aspects about applying for NIH funding that may be obvious to more seasoned researchers but are new for others who do not have a lot of exposure to NIH,” Doyle says. “Early Stage Investigators might not have established relationships with program officers just yet, and some may have not settled into a particular institute. [NIH resources] can narrow things down for those who have not had a lot of exposure to NIH.”
To that end, outlined here are three unique resources, all available online through the NIH.
One of many resources found on the NIH RePORTER website, Matchmaker is especially helpful for researchers who may have submitted an unsuccessful proposal and are unsure of where to submit next. The search tool takes abstracts or other scientific texts and matches the user with potential program officials and review panels.
The key, Doyle says, is helping Early Stage Investigators find answers to a tricky question: “‘Who do I talk to at NIH?’ You can copy and paste an abstract or specific aims into a textbox and can search the funding portfolios of program officers at NIH that have similar scientific overlap. Matchmaker will essentially match you to the funding portfolios of program officers at NIH.”
This list can be sorted or reordered to narrow down possible contacts for funding opportunities.
“You can look up all the grants that NCATS or other Institutes/Centers have funded, or even narrow it down by the program announcement, and you can actually see what has been funded in the past,” Doyle explains. “Usually that gives you a better sense of what reviewers and Institutes may be looking for in submissions.”
The Office of Extramural Research discusses NIH funding with members of the NIH staff in this downloadable podcast. The content is aimed at investigators, fellows, students, and research administrators.
“Podcasts are one way to provide additional more focused information,” Doyle says. “We are always trying to get the word out about the NIH process and thinking about other mediums. The podcast [allows us to] create some content and make it more accessible.”
Episodes are organized around specific topics — “Preparing to Apply,” “Developing a Successful Grant Application,” “Advice for New and Early Career Scientists,” “Submitting Your Application,” “Peer Review,” “Post-award Activities and Requirements,” and “Special Programs” — and are available as mp3s for download on the NIH website, via iTunes, or via the All About Grants Podcast RSS feed.
The NIH website features samples of applications from investigators, many answering frequent questions. According to Doyle, one example involves how to incorporate responses to review critiques.
“It’s not uncommon for applicants to have to revise their application,” she says. “For most grants, you have one page for an introduction to your revised application and to talk a little about the revisions that you have done. A lot of people ask, ‘What does that even look like?’”
Sample applications, Doyle says, offer guidance on showing responsiveness to reviewer feedback. Types of samples on the site include R01 and K award applications.
“The process is a little less intimidating when you actually see what some of these sample applications look like,” Doyle states.
In addition to the resources outlined above, Doyle has some additional tips for researchers:
To find additional grants, research, and training resources visit the NIH website at nih.gov.