This chapter continues to delve into specific strategies and considerations for writing different sections of the narrative of the proposal. The chapter uses the National Institutes of Health as the model. It examines the approach, or how the investigator will go about answering the research questions or addressing the aims while conducting the research study or project. The approach section describes in sufficient detail the strategies that will be implemented to achieve the aim(s) of the study. This should include an unbiased approach in the design, recruitment of participants, procedures and measures, human subjects (if relevant), timeline, analysis, interpretation, and reporting of results. When writing the narrative for this section, it is important to consider the lens of reviewers. Lastly, the chapter describes writing considerations for specific types of research designs that are commonly used by health professionals: the randomized clinical trial, the pragmatic clinical trial, community-based participatory research, and mixed method designs.
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This chapter discusses the background and significance sections of a proposal and describes how the literature review supports both. Over time, literature reviews have become more systematic and rigorous because investigators have understood the value and necessity of applying review methodologies that strengthen the scientific foundation of their study. Systematic and narrative reviews are sometimes confused because both provide a summary of existing literature on a research topic. This chapter compares the narrative review and the systematic review to differentiate between the two. The chapter also introduces the matrix method of organizing the literature search and provides a step-by-step outline for conducting a review of the literature, which includes activities that are indispensable to “owning the literature” so the grant writer can discuss major ideas and prior research conducted and ensure that the research questions asked are logically developed and based on a solid scientific foundation.
This chapter discusses key strategies in writing a proposal that can improve the competitiveness of a submission and potentially save valuable time in the writing process. These considerations include writing a concept paper prior to initiating a grant application, conducting pilot studies that include needs assessments to support a proposed idea, obtaining supporting documents, and formulating strategies for attending to administrative details efficiently. The chapter summarizes six major uses of a concept paper and discusses the importance of needs assessments and pilot data for supporting a proposal. The chapter also addresses how to obtain supplementary materials and covers other administrative details that, if addressed early on in developing a proposal, can make the writing process more efficient and save a considerable amount of time, particularly as the deadline for the grant submission approaches.
This concluding chapter uses a case example to tie together all of the chapters, serving as a review and a way to integrate the key points made throughout this book. The reader will obtain a sense of the whole grantwriting process, moving through the grantwriting steps from idea inception to grant submission to notice of award and then postaward management. This chapter helps the reader understand the grantwriting process from start to finish and identify which chapters to refer back to for more in-depth information. Successful grant writing is not an elusive goal that only a few can achieve. There are basics that make it possible: a novel idea with funding potential; a systematic and logical approach to addressing the issue; and, above all, persistence and passion.
Electronic submission is the primary method used by federal agencies and foundations for submitting grant applications. Occasionally paper submissions are required so be sure to check the requirements for each competition. Electronic submission represents a significant leap forward in increasing efficiency in the submission and processing of grant applications. The primary challenge with an electronic submission is that the grant writer will be required to have a completed and final grant application ready for uploading anywhere from 5 days to 2 weeks prior to the funder’s deadline. The key to success is allowing sufficient time and having patience with system and computer bungles. This chapter provides general tips for some of the key challenges involved with online submissions of grant applications and what it takes to be efficient and ready to submit an application electronically.
Grantsmanship reflects a unique world with its own language, rules, strategies, and requirements. This chapter introduces the language of grantsmanship and locates grant writing within the larger context of career building and as an essential professional activity. Grant writing should not be a “one-off” activity; each grant should be viewed as a stepping stone to building programs that progress along a career trajectory. Grantsmanship is a thoughtful process and a professional commitment, with each award contributing to the advancement of knowledge, practice, and programmatic development. This chapter helps the reader understand common terms of grantsmanship, identify how grant writing fits along a career trajectory, and develop a plan of action for writing a grant from any career stage.
In developing a research, training, demonstration, or education grant proposal, an important consideration is the structure of the project. Understanding the available options and the nuances of different project structures is helpful and enhances work efficiency, the competitiveness of an application, and the ease with which the project can be implemented. This chapter introduces four models (individual, consultative, cooperative, and collaborative) and discusses the relative merits, characteristics, and considerations of each. An individual model reflects the traditional academic approach. A consultative model is an extension of the individual approach and includes assistance from experts or consultants. Cooperative models can involve either a main investigator who invites individuals at the same institution to work on aspects of the same project or an arrangement among two or more institutions. A collaborative model builds upon a cooperative approach and involves a more complex organizational structure. The chapter will help the reader determine which model is most appropriate for the reader’s proposed project.
Most public health concerns are complex and require perspectives from different areas of expertise and disciplines to address them effectively. Also, working with others on a team to develop and submit a grant application can support the application’s competitive edge. Yet the process of forming a team can be challenging and sometimes confusing. This chapter discusses how to form a team and evaluate and maximize a team’s effectiveness. The chapter also explores how to define the specific roles and responsibilities of each team member, emphasizing the importance of the team leader role. This chapter also examines common problems in collaborative teams and offers effective solutions. The chapter ends with a case study that illustrates the basic concepts discussed in the chapter and serves as an example of applying the five-stage model of collaboration.
There are many common problems found in proposals, particularly for those submitted by new investigators and novice grant writers. Some of these problems are relatively minor but may result in a review panel lowering the overall score. Other problems are more serious and can result in what is referred to as a “fatal flaw” in a proposal, which will make it noncompetitive. Knowledge of these problems and implementation of the strategies described in this chapter can help the reader avoid the most common errors made by grant writers. The chapter discusses the six major areas of a grant application where these mistakes usually occur, including the significance; the specific aims or objectives; the experimental approach; the investigators; institutional qualifications; and the budget. This chapter helps the reader identify problems commonly found in proposals, understand potential fatal flaws, and implement strategies for addressing pitfalls.
Most proposals, especially those submitted to the National Institutes of Health (
NIH), are not funded on their first submission. This is true not only for applications that are submitted by new investigators but also for those submitted by veteran grant writers. With decreased federal funding for research and training projects, it is becoming more difficult to obtain funding. Thus, resubmission of an unfunded proposal is an unfortunate but somewhat normal process of grantsmanship today and a reality for even the most expert grant writer or experienced researcher. This chapter helps the reader understand resubmission options and identify a resubmission strategy. It also defines terms related to the specific resubmission options of the National Institutes of Health. The chapter recommends three steps to determine whether an investigator should resubmit: assess the priority score; carefully review comments of reviewers; and discuss review and options with a program officer.
The specific aims section is arguably the most important part of the grant application. It is also the most difficult to write, as it must succinctly describe the problem that will be addressed, the significance of the problem, the critical knowledge gap that is preventing progress in the field, the goal of the proposal, and the impact the results will have on the field when the project is completed. The specific aims, like all sections of the grant application, should be written for a general scientific audience and not just specialists in the field. Some agencies invite end users or key stakeholders to review their grants, so writing for a broad audience in these cases is of particular importance. Reviewers are easily distracted by highly technical jargon that can make it difficult to understand what the grant writer is trying to communicate. This chapter introduces a template for structuring each paragraph of the specific aims page so that the research idea flows logically and captures the interest of reviewers. It also discusses strategies for presenting compelling specific aims and presents examples to illustrate what to include in each paragraph of the specific aims page.
Developing a budget is as important as detailing the science or training requirements of a proposal. There are numerous considerations in constructing a budget. First, it is important to recognize that the proposal budget will be reviewed by a number of different departments and officials, including individuals in the university, peer reviewers, and officials in the funding agency. One of the more important groups who will review the budget is the review panel of the funding agency. Once the budget and budget justification are completed, many institutions have internal forms that must be completed and that involve obtaining signatures from institutional officials including a department chair and/or the head of research administration. This chapter helps the reader understand how to construct a budget for a project. It also examines costs associated with proposed activities and determines consultation and subaward budget arrangements.
An understanding of the process of collaboration will enable the reader to become a more competent participant and a more effective leader. This chapter discusses how to form collaborative teams and the potential dynamics within these teams. The chapter first presents a brief discussion of a theoretical framework that provides a rationale for collaborative behavior. This framework is based on social exchange theory and the literature on team building. The chapter introduces two important concepts to facilitate a collaborative group structure: role differentiation and role release. It then compares the roles assumed on a traditional solo investigator-driven research project with the roles on a collaborative team and discusses the responsibilities of a team leader. Based on this framework, the chapter presents a five-stage model of collaboration that describes the process by which to develop and nurture collaborative teams for research and education proposal development and implementation.
Because the funding environment and the interests of agencies are constantly evolving, it is important to systematically monitor changes in agency policies and priorities. This chapter identifies the major sources of funding for health and human service professionals, discusses ways to learn about the current and future interests of various funding agencies, and shows how to interpret calls for proposals. The chapter describes different pilot research mechanisms that are available to individuals in the formative stage of their research careers. Based on this information, the reader will be in a better position to develop a plan of action for tracking potential funding opportunities and responding with competitive applications. The chapter helps the reader identify potential sources of funding, understand how to track funding opportunities, comprehend calls for proposals, and prepare for conversations with program officers.
One of the most challenging aspects of grantsmanship is identifying an idea that both matches an investigator’s interests and passion and has funding potential. The idea must be novel, have the potential to advance science, and address a gap in current research literature, education, or practice. The idea should also fit an investigator’ short- and long-term career interests and match the interests of a funding source. This chapter identifies resources and a process to help develop a competitive idea with funding potential. The chapter helps the reader identify what makes an idea fundable and describes strategies for identifying fundable ideas and matching the reader’s idea to funding opportunities.
Entering the world of grant writing and being successful in acquiring funding requires knowledge and skill. It also requires having appropriate institutional supports or an infrastructure that supports the pursuit of funding as well as performing the proposed activities of a project, if funded. To have a successful and long career in grant writing, an investigator must either be situated in a supportive environment or create one. In fact, funding agencies and review panels will evaluate whether an environment is adequate to support the proposed project. This chapter first examines the key factors that can serve as barriers to successful grant writing and identifies strategies to overcome potential limitations. The chapter then considers the core components of a supportive environment for pursuing grantsmanship. The chapter helps the reader identify common barriers to grant writing and describes the support needed to be successful in grant writing.
Developing a budget for a grant proposal is similar to writing other sections of the application. It takes time, careful thought, knowledge of technical budget terms, and an understanding of the budgetary requirements and restrictions of both the funding agency and the investigator’s institution. It is important to begin developing a budget for a proposal as early as possible in the grantwriting process. As soon as the investigator has identified a project idea and its specific aims, they should consider the budget to ensure that the proposal idea and aims are realistic from a funding perspective. This chapter helps the reader understand the language of grant budgets, consider the policies and requirements of both the agency and the reader’s institution, identify the components of a budget, write a budget justification, and determine when to use the National Institutes of Health (
NIH) modular budget format.
Each funding agency establishes its own set of procedures to guide the conduct of a rigorous and comprehensive review of proposals. Review procedures can differ across agencies and even for each competition sponsored by an agency. Foundations may establish special review panels for each competition, have members of their board review applications, or seek expertise from the scientific community on an ad hoc basis. Exceptions to this are made for special funding opportunities such as supplementary or discretionary funding, minority supplement awards, or certain fellowships. This chapter discusses the most common review process, the peer-review system used by the Public Health Service (
PHS), which includes the National Institutes of Health ( NIH) and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. The chapter also looks at review criteria, scores, and categories of acceptance and rejection.
Several strategies can be used to improve the quality of written work. These strategies include organizing the task, avoiding common writing problems, and developing and working with a grantwriting team to facilitate the process. This chapter examines each strategy in detail. One strategy that can improve proposal writing is to develop a systematic plan by which to approach the task. The chapter provides six organizing strategies for grant writing. The second way to improve the quality of a proposal is to avoid problems that are commonly found in grant writing, including the use of imprecise language. The chapter discusses nine recommendations for effective proposal writing. Another strategy to enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of proposal writing is to organize a grantwriting team. There are ten common tasks required to write a grant proposal, and the chapter outlines the ten roles that individuals can assume on a grantwriting team.
This chapter explores the technical components of developing a grant budget and introduces the basic government circulars that frame budget management. Federal grant budgets are governed by the Office of Management and Budget, and regulations are specified in three circulars, which can be made available through an institution’s research administration office. Although it is not necessary to study in depth the content of these circulars, it is helpful to have a working knowledge of their purpose and content and to have them easily available for reference. In addition, the grants administrator, fiscal office, or office of research administration can be consulted with regard to the circulars’ content and updates, as well as the rules and regulations guiding all grant budgets from their development to their monitoring and management. Working with a grants administrator from the start of the grantwriting process is essential, and he or she should be a member of the grant team for accurate and effective budgeting.
Funding agencies are primarily interested in funding the best ideas from among those that are submitted and the applicants most capable of being successful in carrying out their proposed project. Therefore, the proposal needs to present a compelling case to convince a funding agency to support the idea. A call for proposals may contain a list of potential topics or areas of inquiry related to the interest of the agency, the format of the proposal, and an outline of the evaluation criteria that will be applied by reviewers to proposals. It is critical to follow the instructions carefully and to use the sections stated as the headings in the proposal. This chapter describes the basic narrative components of most proposals. Although each agency structures its calls for proposals differently, there are sections that are commonly required. The chapter presents an overview of the content of each section.
This chapter introduces the postaward world and suggests the basic administrative and programmatic steps to follow when implementing a new grant, whether it be for research, service, or education activities. In carrying out a project, there are a myriad of important legal, institutional, and administrative details that must be adhered to by the institution, the funding agency, and the principal investigator or project director. There are also various rules and regulations that are set forth by the funding agency and specified in the particular award. It is also necessary for all project-related activities to comply with state and local laws and ethical standards of professional and clinical conduct. This chapter helps the reader understand the initial steps for starting a funded project and identify grant reporting requirements. It also helps the reader understand budgeting and effort reporting requirements and learn about standard institutional policies and resources.
Although mentors serve different functions throughout an investigator’s career, this chapter explores the specific role of mentoring as it relates to grantsmanship. In fact, lack of mentoring can be a significant barrier to becoming a successful grant writer, researcher, and/or scholar. The chapter starts with an examination of formal funding opportunities for mentorship and then explores several different mentorship models. It then discusses strategies for developing a mentorship relationship, key roles and responsibilities of mentor and mentee, and how to balance mentoring and team support with the need to show independence as a researcher. As mentees will also be or become mentors, mentees need to understand both their responsibilities and the responsibilities of their mentors, and this chapter looks at the roles of both. The chapter helps the reader understand the importance of mentorship across their career and identify roles and responsibilities of mentors and mentees.
This chapter takes the longer view on how the reader can become positioned for success over time in order to make a significant impact on a particular area of healthcare. Although the chapter focuses on research, the points are relevant to systematically building grant funding to support training and educational innovation as well. The chapter discusses the importance of applying a strong work ethic, garnering support for the necessary resources to do impactful scientific work, mapping a strategy for writing sequential grant applications, and planning for the dissemination of the products of program of research. It also defines what is meant by a program of research. The chapter helps the reader identify resources and strategies for building a program of research and understand the expectations and the process for disseminating results of a program of research.
Funding agencies require that an official of the applicant’s institution with signing privileges review the budget to confirm accuracy of salary information and ensure compliance with all federal regulations concerning such things as equal employment opportunities, budget oversight, and maintenance of a drug- and smoke-free environment. Each institution will also have policies that need to be followed if the project is funded. This chapter helps the reader identify what is necessary to know from an institution in order to develop a budget. It also explains institutional review board (
IRB) considerations. The chapter also helps determines which level of review a research proposal will require from the IRB. Knowing the policies and procedures of an institution early in the proposal development process will help the reader work productively at both the preaward and postaward stages.