Field of Science

A paradigm shift for how I organize grant proposals?

Yesterday I put together a paragraph-by-paragraph outline for our NIH proposal, using the usual sensible order: One-page Summary, Introduction and Background, Specific Aims, Preliminary Results, Research Methods. Today NIH released the new official Instructions (new because they're reduced the page limit from 25 to 12, and streamlined the content). Here's the organization they want; I'm going to have to do a lot of rethinking to figure out where I should put the information I would normally present, what I should leave out, and what new issues I need to emphasize. Luckily I'm not the only person dealing with this change - everyone applying for the usual NIH RO1 grants has to now use this format:

Specific Aims

This comes first; it has a one-page limit. I think it must also serve as a Summary page, because I can't find any mention of a separate Summary in the Instructions.
  • State concisely the goals of the proposed research and summarize the expected outcome(s), including the impact that the results of the proposed research will exert on the research field(s) involved.
  • List succinctly the specific objectives of the research proposed, e.g., to test a stated hypothesis, create a novel design, solve a specific problem, challenge an existing paradigm or clinical practice, address a critical barrier to progress in the field, or develop new technology.
I don't think this will cause us much problem; it's sort-of what I usually try to do in the Summary page anyway.

(a) Significance
  • Explain the importance of the problem or critical barrier to progress in the field that the proposed project addresses.
  • Explain how the proposed project will improve scientific knowledge, technical capability, and/or clinical practice in one or more broad fields.
  • Describe how the concepts, methods, technologies, treatments, services, or preventative interventions that drive this field will be changed if the proposed aims are achieved.
The problem here is the big shift in emphasis. I think I still need to provide the background information here, but it needs to be much more explicitly placed in the context of advancing the field.

(b) Innovation
  • Explain how the application challenges and seeks to shift current research or clinical practice paradigms.
  • Describe any novel theoretical concepts, approaches or methodologies, instrumentation or intervention(s) to be developed or used, and any advantage over existing methodologies, instrumentation or intervention(s).
  • Explain any refinements, improvements, or new applications of theoretical concepts, approaches or methodologies, instrumentation or interventions.
Hmm, do I seek to shift current research paradigms??? Well yes, in overthrowing the 'transformation=sex' paradigm, but that won't be accomplished by the work proposed here. Maybe overturning the paradigm of random recombination? We will be developing novel strategies and refinements for using sequencing to study rare events, and more generally by using deep sequencing to study recombination.

C. Approach
  • Describe the overall strategy, methodology, and analyses to be used to accomplish the specific aims of the project. Include how the data will be collected, analyzed, and interpreted as well as any resource sharing plans as appropriate.
  • Discuss potential problems, alternative strategies, and benchmarks for success anticipated to achieve the aims.
  • If the project is in the early stages of development, describe any strategy to establish feasibility, and address the management of any high risk aspects of the proposed work.
  • Discuss the PD/PI's preliminary studies, data, and/or experience pertinent to this application.
OK, here's where we'll talk about what we want to accomplish. I think the order here is flexible, so we'll describe overall strategies, then preliminary data, and then the details of the research we propose.

I promised myself that I'd have a rough draft by the end of November, so I'd better get busy converting my outline into paragraphs.

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