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Top Ten Tips for Grant Writing

1. Months, not weeks. Give yourself time to

prepare your best grant application.

2. Align your proposal with the mission of

the funding agency.

3. Identify and consult with the appropriate

program officers.

4. Familiarize yourself with criteria used to

assess proposals. Study examples of suc-

cessful proposals.

5. Devise specific aims that can be expressed

as testable hypotheses (in most cases).

6. Keep specific aims sufficiently

independent but still interrelated.

7. Make text easy to read. Use simple,

persuasive writing with minimal jargon.

8. Use graphics to your advantage.

9. Have your proposal reviewed internally

in your institution before you submit.

10. Resubmit if necessary.


Can you apply for an NSF grant if you are at a

medical institution?

Yes. NSF funds projects, not institutions. Pay at-

tention to the mission of the agency. You cannot

just take an NIH-focused proposal and send it to

NSF instead.

As research faculty in between postdoc and PI,

what are my grant opportunities?

You can apply for anything, but you are at a disad-

vantage for R01 grants because you are competing

with people who are already well-established.

How are R15 grants (for states or institutions

with low NIH funding levels) reviewed, relative to


R15 grants may be easier to get if you are eligible.

They have a lower budget cap and are three year

grants, but are renewable.

What is the difference between “Early Stage

Investigator” and “New Investigator?”

A New Investigator is someone who has never

been successful with an R01 grant application in

the past. An Early Stage Investigator is New


is no more than 10 years from the terminal degree

(PhD or MD). You can only qualify as an Early

Stage Investigator for one successful grant applica-

tion. NIH is encouraging ESI applications to close

the age gap between postdoc and first successful

R01 grant.

Is resubmitting after triage a waste of time?

Decisions about resubmitting can be tricky. If you

are planning to resubmit, talk to your program

officer about how to improve the application. It is

only recommended that you resubmit if there was

enthusiasm for the idea but your application was

rejected based on a lack of preliminary data,

for example.