You no longer need to, and good riddance.

It is difficult enough to shoe-horn the ever-burgeoning list of requirements in the Research Plan without having to find ways to mark resubmission changes. I welcomed this 2015 notice that said you no longer had to mark changes: NOT-OD-15-030 . You may still highlight changes if you think it will help. But often it just creates a formatting mess and is best not marked. Instead, write the one-page Introduction to the Revised Application with enormous care, which frankly you ought to be doing anyway. On the resubmission, it eclipses the one-page Specific Aims document as the single most important page of the application. – Posted: February 16, 2017


Missing expertise is a rookie mistake; Redundancy is seen as bloating the budget.

Only the newest grantees propose a project and do not budget for all required expertise. More typically, expertise is represented more than once on a team. Sometimes it cannot be helped— your long-time collaborator will oversee histology experiments, then a new co-I is brought on for some unrelated expertise, and he/she also happens to have expertise in histology. Why do you need two people with histology expertise, a reviewer will ask? You’d better have a good explanation, written carefully in the Approach, the budget justification, and the biosketches. (Hint: The new Co-I might replace the histology expertise, but not your successful, established relationship with your long-time collaborator.) – Posted: February 9, 2017


Try to avoid overlap in your sites, just as you do in your team.

Grantees know the phrase “multidisciplinary team.” How diversified are your sites? I recently read this reviewer quote: “The proposed sites are geographically close and more similar than different, limiting external validity and making the label “multi-center” technically correct but less informative.” A valid reason for including a site might be to boost enrollment of a particular race/ethnicity to power sub-studies, which would help satisfy the new scoring criteria “Sex and Other Biological Variables.” Make the case to reviewers for the site’s inclusion, because its inclusion costs money. – Posted: February 2, 2017


It will save space and be easier to quickly skim and grasp key points.

I don’t know about you, but when I read a stack of submissions, I like a scorecard to keep track of the major players involved, even on the relatively small submissions. It makes it easy to flip back and figure out who is doing what, what their role is on the project (PI, Co-I), and where they reside. Plus it saves space– you can drop the font size, and use phrases instead of full sentences. When writing a grant application, I put that info in a table. I usually position it somewhere near the beginning of the Approach section. It would like something like this (I can’t use real examples due to confidentiality issues, this was my kids’ idea):

Table 1: Team Table. The team has collaborated for 3 yrs on numerous projects (2, 7-9). WHSP- The Wall Health Science Program; KLU- King’s Landing University;

Name, Affiliation
Expertise for this Project

J. Snow, MD WHSP
Human behavior investigator since 1998; Directs WHSP’s wolf breeding program; Youngest director ever appointed; Will oversee Aim 1 studies.

T. Lannister MD, PhD, JD
Directs KLU, will oversee all work within KLU; Expertise in pyromancy (see Protection of Human Subjects section); will oversee all pyromancy studies in Aim 2a.

D. Targaryen PhD
Head of International Dragon Transgenic Facility (IDTF); will oversee dragon transgenic animals used in the study and all dragon in vivo studies in Aim 2b; Director of NIH International Center for Excellence in Dragon Research (I-CEDR); has won numerous awards for her pioneering work in the field.

– Posted: January 26, 2017



I received my first copy as a post-doctoral fellow, and in the decades since I have not found anything better. The basis of much of science writing in the US is the IMRAD format—Introduction, Methods, Results, and Discussion. This format often applies whether you are writing a manuscript, poster, doctoral thesis, or grant application—all of which are covered in the book.

This handy reference has short, easy-to-read chapters with witty text and great cartoons. Topics in the seventh edition include ethics, writing a title, designing effective tables and figures, dealing with editors and proofs, writing books chapters, presenting at conferences, writing across cultures and media, CVs, letters of recommendation, careers in science communications, and yes, grant applications. It remains my go-to reference for all written science communication.

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Elements of Style

This classic style manual, which we all know and love, is never out of reach when I write. Small but mighty, this text answers my general usage questions with the authors’ trademark bone-dry humor.

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American Medical Association Manual of Style

If you are a professional medical writer or editor, this will likely be your primary style manual. I am rarely asked by a client to use another. I personally love the online version and update it each year, given how quickly medical jargon and usage can evolve within a research context.

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“I am pictured with some of the editions of my recommended books that I have acquired over the years. I received my first copy of Elements of Style (bottom left) in 1979. The fiftieth anniversary edition is on the right.”

Meg Bouvier


General Info about NIH grant applications

NIH RePORT (Research Portfolio Online Reporting Tools), a treasure trove of NIH funding facts.

NIH’s “All About Grants” Podcasts.

NIH Glossary and Acronym List.

Writing the application

Complete R01s, not just the 12-page description, populated on the NIH forms and with comments throughout from NIH staff. Note however that these applications are from 2010.

NIAID Sample R01 Grant Applications:
R01 Sample 1 (pdf)
R01 Sample 2 (pdf)

NOTE: The application text is copyrighted. It may be used only for nonprofit educational purposes provided the document remains unchanged and the PI, the
grantee organization, and NIAID are credited.

NIAID information on How to Write a Grant Application

The SF424 application information, your go-to reference for all guidelines and questions about your submission.

NIH Guidance on Research Involving Human Embryonic Stem Cells

DHHS/OER Policy on Multiple Principal Investigators

Center for Scientific Review (CSR) Guidance on What to Include in a Cover Letter. Note however that as of spring 2016, IC and study section requests should go in a separate attachment in the FORMS-D package.

NIH offers a free course on Protection of Human Subjects in medical research. Physicians can take the course for CME credit.

Submitting the Application

Grants.gov Application Process (registration, DUNS number, etc).

US Department of Health and Human Services Grant Application Form (PHS 398 Form and Instructions)

Info About the Review Process

Center for Scientific Review (CSR) Peer Review Notes
A newsletter that comes out three times a year packed with information about the ever-evolving process of peer review of NIH submissions.

High-level overview of the NIH submission review process, great for first-time applicants.

How NIH Grant Applications Are Reviewed
Also other good stuff linked on this page, like writing tips, sample Summary Statements, etc.

NIH Office of Extramural Research (OER) Peer Review Policy and Issues

Definitions of Criteria and Considerations for Research Project Grant (RPG/R01/R03/R15/R21/R34) Critiques

NIH Instructions to Reviewers for Evaluating Research Involving Human Subjects (pdf)

After Submitting Your Application or Proposal

Applicant Guidance: Next Steps “Your application was reviewed; what to do next…”

NIH Policy on Resubmission (Amended) Applications