Grantwriting Workshops Offered by Meg Bouvier Medical Writing

On May 8-9, The Arizona Biomedical Research Commission (ABRC) will be hosting a series of workshops on NIH grant submissions, at which I will be the featured presenter. For details and registration information, click here.

Workshops are often a cost-effective way to educate a larger group of faculty on the NIH grant process. In Phoenix next week, I will be kicking off my presentations with a popular 3 ½ hour R01 workshop, which includes a workbook that contains exercises and samples of funded grant applications. After, I will be conducting a series of one-hour breakout groups on topics including NIH submission strategies, resubmissions, mistakes commonly made by applicants, the review process, and how to choose an appropriate funding mechanism (R01, R21, or R03). Each time I present to a group, I work with the client to customize the presentations to address the needs of a particular group of attendees.

The workshops have proved quite popular with departments and institutions and can be taken for CME credit. I draw upon my experience working each year with dozens of NIH submissions and summary statements. My experience as both a bench scientist and staff writer at NIH also informs my approach to NIH grantsmanship and trainings.

Please contact us to discuss a workshop that will fit your needs and budget, and for a sampling of workshop formats and topics.

Are R03s and R21s Disappearing from NIH?

In a previous post I reported that NIDDK is the latest IC to pull out of the R21 program. My colleagues and I have been discussing (read: bemoaning) the demise of the small grant programs at NIH for some time, so it got me wondering about the actual numbers. Below is a table I created of data on the total number of awards and total funding under the R01, R03, and R21 programs over the past ten years. Below the table is a link to three line graphs I created from these data.

The R03 program appears to have peaked in 2004, with 1,632 awards and about $131.3M in funding. That number has been trending downward ever since, with 2010 numbers dipping to 1,058 awards and $87.3M in funding. Both of these R03 2010 numbers are about 65% of what they were at their peak in 2004.

The R21 program looks like it peaked in 2008 (3,649 applications and $678M in funding), with the numbers trending down since.

The number of R01 awards peaked in 2004 and have gone down each year since, dropping from 29,060 (2004) to 26,752 (2010). However the total R01 funding has remained relatively constant over the same time period and was actually at its highest in ten years in 2010 ($10.6B).

 

Click here for line graphs comparing R03 and R21

 

  R01- # awards R01- total funding R03- # awards R03- total funding R21- number awards R21- total funding
2001 26,173 $8,092,593,805 1250 $85,588,331 1279 $222,627,134
2002 27,568 $8,985,081,987 1378 $100,859,126 1822 $334,251,476
2003 28,698

$9,742,052,935 1506 $119,237,600 2464 $463,441,579
2004 29,060 $10,176,053,099 1632

$131,256,249

2934 $565,855,342
2005 28,622 $10,288,217,875 1603

$129,112,877

3056 $590,944,052
2006 28,192 $10,121,779,877 1409

$110,742,609

3126 $599,204,776
2007 27,850 $10,045,800,665 1430

$107,986,148

3453 $676,573,619

2008 27,012 $9,956,033,585 1479

$107,464,019

3649 $736,213,063

2009 26,580 $10,261,795,174 1284

$99,073,147

3271 $678,182,707

2010 26,752 $10,641,893,906 1058

$87,331,891

3124 $658,330,834

Source: NIH Reporter website. Total # awards excludes number of awards for noncompeting supplements 

Click here for line graphs comparing R03 and R21

 

Comparison of NIH Small R-Series Research Grants (R03 vs. R21)

In preparation for discussing the fate of small research grant awards at NIH, I decided first to give a brief overview of the R03 and R21 programs, including a list of which ICs participate in these programs, both under the parent FOA and outside the parent FOA:

Small Research Grant Program (R03)

Maximum two-year award, $50K per year in directs (Six-page application.)

Eleven of the 27 NIH ICs currently participate in the parent award: NHGRI, NIDA, NIA, NIAAA, NIAID, NIBIB, NICHD, NIEHS, NIMH, NINDS, and NINR. (Some of the ICs that are not listed may have R03 programs that fall outside these guidelines that are announced in specific RFAs or PAs issued by the IC.  In other words, they are not investigator-initiated, but rather are tied to specific priority areas for the IC.)

 Purpose: The R03 grant mechanism supports different types of projects including:

  • Pilot or feasibility studies
  • Secondary analysis of existing data
  • Small, self-contained research projects
  • Development of research methodology
  • Development of new research technology

Because the research plan is restricted to six pages, an R03 grant application will not have the same level of detail or extensive discussion found in an R01 application. Accordingly, reviewers should evaluate the conceptual framework and general approach to the problem, placing less emphasis on methodological details and certain indicators traditionally used in evaluating the scientific merit of R01 applications including supportive preliminary data. Appropriate justification for the proposed work can be provided through literature citations, data from other sources, or from investigator-generated data. Preliminary data are not required, particularly in applications proposing pilot or feasibility studies. (But lets face it, you really have to include preliminary data if you want the reviewers to take the application seriously.)

NIH Exploratory Developmental Research Grant Program (R21)

Maximum two-year award, $275K in directs total (no more than $200K in any one year) (Six-page app)

Out of 27 ICs, 19 (soon to be 18) currently participate, and that number is expected to drop: NEI, NHLBI, NHGRI, NLM, NIA, NIAAA, NIAID, NIAMS, NIBIB, NICHD, NIDCD, NIDA, NIDCR, NIDDK (leaving soon), NIEHS, NIMH, NINDS, NINR, NCCAM.

ICs that do not participate in the parent FOA but accept R21 applications in response to their specific FOAs: FIC, NCI, NCMHD, NCRR, NIGMS. For example: NCI reports that they currently have 59 R21 FOAs, 34 of which they initiated. They awarded 229 new R21s in 2010 (as compared to 850 new R01s). They fund a total of 592 R21s (compared to 3998 R01s).

 Purpose of Parent FOA: The Exploratory/Developmental Grant (R21) mechanism is intended to encourage exploratory and developmental research projects by providing support for the early and conceptual stages of these projects. These studies may involve considerable risk but may lead to a breakthrough in a particular area, or to the development of novel techniques, agents, methodologies, models, or applications that could have a major impact on a field of biomedical, behavioral, or clinical research. Such projects could assess the feasibility of a novel area of investigation or a new experimental system that has the potential to enhance health-related research.  Another example could include the unique and innovative use of an existing methodology to explore a new scientific area.

Applications for R21 awards should describe projects distinct from those supported through the traditional R01 mechanism. For example, long-term projects, or projects designed to increase knowledge in a well-established area, will not be considered for R21 awards. Applications submitted under this mechanism should be exploratory and novel. These studies should break new ground or extend previous discoveries toward new directions or applications. Projects of limited cost or scope that use widely accepted approaches and methods within well established fields are better suited for the R03 small grant mechanism. (may submit without preliminary data. NOT.)

(Data and most of the text have been taken from the NIH website. Italics for emphasis, as well as any/all sarcasm, are strictly the author’s.)