Office of Fellowship Training
GETTING YOUR BASIC RESEARCH FUNDED, by Jordan A. Kreidberg, MD, PhD, Director, Office of Fellowship Training (Presentation)
- 10-15 years ago, one could expect to apply for one's first NIH R01, directly after completing a postdoctoral fellowship. Today, the average age for someone to receive their first R01 grant award is over age 40.
- In 2005, 15-18% of grants were funded, depending on the NIH institute. The recent news for FY 2006 is that only approximately 10% will be funded. Last year funding for NIH itself was defunded for the first time in about 20 years.
Basic Guidelines for Successful Grant Writing
- Identify sources of funding
- Know what your funding source expects
- Know the requirements/limitations of the grant (e.g., for citizenship, etc.)
- Start ahead of time
- Get someone else to review it before you submit it
- Know your own limits/abilities
- Know when/where to ask for help
- Learn who will be reviewing your grant (influence this if you can!)
- Know the process by which grant submission/review/notification occurs
- Understand the scoring system and what you need to do if you choose to resubmit
Where to Start Looking: NIH and Other Funding for New and Established Investigators
- The first place to look for information on submitting NIH grants is Office of Sponsored Programs website.
Identify sources of funding
A major source of postdoctoral funding is the National Institutes of Health, through individual and institutional NRSA grants. Only United States citizens and permanent residents are eligible for these grants. Other major foundations offering postdoctoral grants include the American Heart Association and the American Cancer Society. These organizations fund a wide range of research, despite their major focus on heart disease and cancer, respectively. Additionally, there are smaller foundations that offer very prestigious and highly competitive postdoctoral fellowships, including the Helen Hay Whitney Foundation, the Damon Runyon-Walter Winchell Foundation, and the Jane Coffin Childs Memorial Fund for Medical Research. Beyond these possibilities, there are usually one or more foundations or societies within each field or disease-related area that funds postdoctoral grants. Usually the principal investigator in whose laboratory you intend to work will know about these opportunities. There are additional resources at the Office of Sponsored Programs, and as always, the internet can be searched for possibilities.
Know what your funding source expects
National Research Service Award (NRSA) Training Grants and Fellowships:
- NRSA's are funded at a much higher level than R01's. For NRSA's you need letters of reference from someone who knew you in graduate school, and you need to document the environment in which you're performing your experiments.
- Individual postdoctoral fellows can apply for F32 NRSA's.
- NIH Institutional Research Training Grants (T32 NRSA awards) provide support to institutions, which use this funding to provide salaries for junior investigators. This is not something you can apply for on your own, but your Department or Division may have a T32.
New investigators can apply for the following grants:
- MD's can apply for K08's
- PhD's can apply for K01's
These two K awards are for mentored investigators to transition to independence.
- A K award is an NIH career-development award for those fellows presently being mentored and who expect to become independent It provides up to five years of salary and research support, as well as funding to develop specialized training. To apply for a K award, you need to show both academic promise and strong preliminary data, as well as, evidence of good mentorship and institutional support. Of the K awards, there are a number of different awards that individuals with a research doctorate may consider. Most of these awards support individuals that have accepted or are ready for a faculty position. The K Kiosk,, gives a description of all K award grants that research and clinical fellows can apply for.
Independent faculty members can apply for the following grants:
- R21's (pilot project/no preliminary data required/max $125K/2 year grant)
Know the requirements/limitations of the grant (e.g., for citizenship, etc.)
- Only permanent residents or U.S. citizens may apply for NRSA's or K awards; although those who are not, can apply for R01's.
- The Boston Children's Hospital Office of Sponsored Programs (OSP) states that next year NIH forms and applications will all be on-line.
Know when/where to ask for help
- Never contact members of the Study Section, but it is possible that the Scientific Review Administrator (the "SRA," the chairperson of the Study Section) may answer your questions.
- You may wish to contact the Program Officer of the NIH institute (area) that you believe your research would fit with. The Program Officer is the staff member who oversees a scientific program and the progress of grants in his or her portfolio. Look under the specific NIH institute that you think your research fits with and do a search for Program Officer. Ask if your research area is likely to be funded.
Understand the scoring system and what you need to do if you choose to resubmit
- Again, the Program Officer can help here.
Know the process by which grant submission/review/notification occurs
- Some time after your NIH grant has been submitted, you will get a score (priority score and percentile) as well as a summary. This used to be in letter format, called the "pink sheet" because it was printed on pink paper. Now, it's electronic.
Learn who will be reviewing your grant (influence this if you can!)
- To learn who will review your NIH grant (based on the Study Section that your grant has been assigned to), go to the NIH web site for Center for Scientific Review (CSR), and look at Study Section Rosters.
- Other than NIH funding, one can also apply for Foundation fellowship grants, such as the the American Heart Association and the American Cancer Society. These organizations fund a wide range of research, despite their major focus on heart disease and cancer, respectively. Additionally, there are smaller foundations that offer very prestigious and highly competitive postdoctoral fellowships, including the Helen Hay Whitney Foundation, the Damon Runyon-Walter Winchell Foundation, and the Jane Coffin Childs Memorial Fund for Medical Research. Beyond these possibilities, there are usually one or more foundations or societies within each field or disease-related area, such as the National Kidney Foundation, that funds postdoctoral grants. Usually the principal investigator in whose laboratory you intend to work will know about these opportunities. There are additional resources at the Office of Sponsored Programs, and as always, the internet can be searched for possibilities.
- In applying for funding from Foundation fellowship grants, in most cases, use the NIH format. If you are uncertain, look at other people's grants.
A Helpful Tool When Writing Grant Proposals
In writing your grant proposal, you might find it useful to use a non-MS Word software by Adobe called "In Design," which allows you to more easily add images to text.
Mistakes to Avoid in Writing Grant Proposals
Know your own limits/abilities
- Do not seem overly ambitious: this is the most common problem among fellows writing grants, and can really hurt your score. If you have trouble condensing your science into the required page limit, this should be a clue. (Note: If applying for Foundation fellowship grants, smaller foundations have fewer page quotas.)
- Have an organized, cogent set of experiments which answer a hypothesis and can lead to a good, preferably excellent, publication.
Tips for Writing Good Grant Proposals
Start ahead of time
Write well in advance of when the proposal is due:
Write the 1st draft 1.5 to 3 months before the proposal is due, then put aside for 2 weeks. This helps you to see the big picture (i.e. how many years it will take to complete the work, as well as to write a well-organized and logical grant).
Get someone else to review it before you submit it
- As many weeks as possible before the proposal is due, have someone else look at your proposal, preferably an Assistant or Associate Professor, who is more likely to have had grants turned down, as well as having been recently funded. It's best if the reviewer has been on NIH Study Sections and if they know your research area.
- The first page must captivate. And, make the introduction only 1 page long. List your previous results here and how they relate to the field.
- Grants must describe your science, as well as make a hypothesis. You should make a convincing case that you will be able to test the hypothesis.
- Above all, make sure there are no typos! This is a sign of being careless and can really kill a proposal.
Parts of the Grant Proposal ("How to")
- Background and Significance (2-3 pp/brief): help the reviewer to understand - use brief (minimal text) figure legends. Be sure to not give a broad review of the field.
- Preliminary Data: at the end, close with a summary paragraph and figure, so if the reviewer has lost track, you can bring him or her back to your focus.
Research Design and Methods:
- Restate your Specific Aims (break into Sub-Aims (although not too many))
- Give Rationale for the Aim
- Background (very pertinent knowledge needed)
- Experimental Design (NOT Methods): what you will do, although not extreme detail on recipes, etc. How will your Design test the hypothesis?
Expected Outcomes and Alternative Approaches: what you expect to happen and what you will do if it doesn't, i.e. if your planned experiment doesn't work out, what other route will you take to answer the hypothesis?
DO NOT SAY "We expect no problems!"
Getting your Clinical Research Funded
One of Zak's take home messages from the Getting Your Clinical Research Funded in January was to use diagrams and figures. "A good diagram paints broad brushstrokes of your project and presents a timeline of yearly progress. This guides the committee to assess your ability to deliver what you propose." Dr Kohane has kindly sent along some diagrams (specific for his program), as examples to guide you.
A Key Boston Children's Hospital Internal Research Link for Fellows Seeking Funding:
Office of Sponsored Programs (OSP), listing grants officers for your Department/Division, important information for submitting grants, the Children's Hospital Program in Responsible Research, and much, much more
The question has been posed: "What assistance does the Office of Sponsored Programs (OSP) offer to research fellows in applying for fellowships, such as guidance regarding which foundations a fellow may apply for, for various specialties, and also which ones are open to fellows without a green card or U.S. citizenship. Also, whether any CHB organization can show the basic, expected structure of a grant?" Jim Sciandra, Manager of OSP replied to this question: "Regarding fellowship opportunities, this is a service that we readily provide on an ad hoc basis. Also, how to write a grant links are now posted to the OSP intranet web site."
SUMMARY OVERVIEW OF FUNDING OPPORTUNITIES FOR POSTDOCS
Each fall and spring the HMS "Red Book" Faculty Fellowship Program becomes available (see below), and the OFT sends out information to the OFT e-mail distribution list on that date, as the link doesn't work before then. This lists awards and funding opportunities for junior faculty and postdocs, and all HMS faculty receive this information by e-mail.
Also, each spring, the Medical Staff Organization (MSO) administers the Houseofficer Development Awards (for residents, clinical fellows, and research fellows). (See below.) Up to $10,000 is available as a one-time award to a Boston Children's Hospital houseofficer (resident, clinical fellow, or research fellow). The award is designed to help recipients develop and further their academic, professional and/or research career. Awards are announced at Research Day at the end of May. Also, each spring, the OFT administers the Postdoctoral Career Development Fellowships, in which two postdocs receive $30K each, annually, for 2-year awards specific to having increased family responsibility. Usually about eight postdocs compete for this. (See below.)
You may wish to view The Harvard Guide to Postdoctoral Fellowships link .
Other than this, you may want to ask your PI, as PI's know which funding agencies have fellowships awards for postdocs within their own disciplines, and more general ones, such as The Medical Foundation, 95 Berkeley Street, Suite 208, Boston, MA 02116 .
As you may know, most NIH funding is not available for non-US citizens until faculty level.
Some Important National Institutes of Health Links for Fellows:
The following are slides from 4 talks by Henry Khachaturian, PhD, NIH Program Policy Officer, Nov. 17-18, 2008
2008 Postdoctoral Career Development Fellowships
We began 2008 with a renewed and expanded commitment to broaden Children's research opportunities for our valued fellows with the generous support of the Clinical Research Committee and the Basic Science Research Committee.
The Office of Faculty Development (OFD) and the Office of Fellowship Training (OFT), with the sponsorship of the Basic Science Research Executive Committee (BREC) and Clinical Research Executive Committee (CREC), announce two Postdoctoral Career Development Fellowships, established in 2004, to assist laboratory-based postdoctoral fellows, currently in their third-to fifth year in a Children's Hospital laboratory, who have increased family responsibilities.
Awards: $30,000 year/for 2 yrs
To assist fellows in applying for the Career Development Fellowships, we have posted an FAQ and a new Faculty Application Outline. The Outline serves as a drafting tool, providing a page-by-page listing of the application contents and requirements, and will help fellows get started in the grant writing process:
The 2008 HMS Fellowship Award Ceremony will be held on Thursday, November 13, 2008 in the Courtyard Cafe, 200 Longwood Avenue, Warren Alpert Building, Harvard Medical School, 4:00-6:00pm. Further information is available from the Faculty Development Coordinator, Office for Faculty Affairs, Harvard Medical School, 617-432-1198.
The Office of Faculty Development and the Office for Fellowship Training
will hold a special luncheon to honor the recipients of 2008 Career Development Fellowships
on Tuesday, October 7, 2008, 12 -1:00 PM
Registrations to Office of Faculty Development
Families and Significant Others are welcome to attend
The two postdoctoral winners for 2007-08 are:
Aruna Ramachandran, Ph.D.
Research Fellow in Surgery, HMS
Department of Urology, CHB
Role of specific AP-1 transcription factor dimer supercomplexes in modulating gene expression
Rita Teodoro, Ph.D.
Research Fellow in Neurology, HMS
Division of Neurosciences, CHB
Genetic analysis of the role of the exocyst complex in membrane trafficking in neurons