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Proposal-Writing Advice from Peer Reviewers

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By Barbara Gastel | Feb. 26, 2017  |

Greetings again. I hope you’re doing well.

Recently at my university, I attended a session titled “NIH Peer Review: Advice from Experts”. Although the session was on seeking grants from the US National Institutes of Health (NIH), the main points also applied to obtaining grants from elsewhere.

The session began with a short video showing peer reviewers discussing two grant proposals. This video and other NIH videos about applying for grants are openly accessible. Also, transcripts of the videos can be accessed through the webpage containing links to the videos.

A panel discussion followed the video. The panel consisted of five faculty members at my university who have been peer reviewers of NIH grant proposals. They became peer reviewers after obtaining grants themselves.

The panelists made many useful points. Here are some that are widely applicable:

  • Of course, propose research that is significant and innovative.
  • Submit a well-written proposal. The proposal should be well integrated, clear, easy to read, and polished. In the words of one panelist: “The proposal has to be really clean.”
  • Before submitting a proposal, gather enough preliminary data to show that the proposed research is feasible and promising.
  • Start by obtaining small grants. Then, after publishing papers based on the funded research, apply for larger grants.
  • Avoid submitting proposals that are very ambitious; reviewers know that work often takes longer than expected. One panelist suggested estimating how much you can do in 3 years and then applying for a 5-year grant.
  • Look at successful proposals by colleagues or others, and use them as models.

A very good session!

Until the next post—

Barbara

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