Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine A Novel Approach to Writing Effective Proposals Creating conversations with reviewers, patterns they expect to seePart 2 Rick McGee, PhD, and Bill Lowe, MD Navigating the Research Enterprise December 11, 2017 Back to teaching and learningOnline Tools for Grant Writing Developed by communications expert who worked with us for 18 months Karl Keller
Animated PowerPoint presentations with audio each 15 minutes or less Vivid display of the patterns that reviewers see and expect to see in grant judged as high quality and fundable Classic cultural capital which funded PIs have acquired but often cant articulate what they are doing or why http://www.northwestern.edu/climb/resources/written-co mmunication/index.html Lets look at the rhetorical patterns Lets look at the rhetorical patterns
Lets look at the rhetorical patterns A bid for recognition as legitimate We are all influenced greatly by what we expect to see/hear in people like us reviewers no different Comes from language, style, patterns when you are established in a field there is tolerance for being unique Read instructions very carefully This is why we teach so explicitly writing to the patterns of the community i.e. funded proposals K Awards the K Kiosk
http://grants.nih.gov/training/careerdevelopmentawards.htm Be SURE to determine any unique requirements or idiosyncrasies for K awards at the Institute you are applying to - talk to the Program Official well in advance Read the instructions very carefully ALL sections of the application must be strong any one that is weak is likely to drag down the rest A unique blend of capturing how great you are but how you still need extended support to be greater Never view a K award as an end, always as a means to an end your successful independent career Critical to make clear the thrust of R01 proposal you likely would submit by the start of last year (up to 5 years)
K08 Scored Review Criteria Mentored Clinical Scientist Research Career Development Award http://grants.nih.gov/grants/guide/pa-files/PA-14-046.html Candidate Does the candidate have the potential to develop as an independent and productive researcher? Are the candidate's prior training and research experience appropriate for this award? Is the candidates academic, clinical (if relevant), and research record of high quality? Is there evidence of the candidates commitment to meeting the
program objectives to become an independent investigator? Do the letters of reference address the above review criteria, and do they provide evidence that the candidate has a high potential for becoming an independent investigator? K08 Scored Review Criteria Career Development Plan/Career Goals and Objectives What is the likelihood that the plan will contribute substantially to the scientific development of the candidate and lead to scientific independence? Are the candidate's prior training and research experience appropriate for this award? Are the content, scope, phasing, and duration of the career
development plan appropriate when considered in the context of prior training/research experience and the stated training and research objectives for achieving research independence? Are there adequate plans for monitoring and evaluating the candidates research and career development progress? K08 Scored Review Criteria Research Plan Are the proposed research question, design, and methodology of significant scientific and technical merit? Is the research plan relevant to the candidates research career objectives?
Is the research plan appropriate to the candidates stage of research development and as a vehicle for developing the research skills described in the career development plan? K08 Scored Review Criteria Mentor(s), Co-Mentor(s), Consultant(s), Collaborator(s) Are the mentor's research qualifications in the area of the proposed research appropriate? Do(es) the mentor(s) adequately address the candidates potential and his/her strengths and areas needing improvement? Is there adequate description of the quality and extent of the mentors proposed role in providing guidance and advice to the candidate?
Is the mentors description of the elements of the research career development activities, including formal course work adequate? Is there evidence of the mentors, consultants and/or collaborators previous experience in fostering the development of independent investigators? Is there evidence of the mentors current research productivity and peerreviewed support? Is active/pending support for the proposed research project appropriate and adequate? Are there adequate plans for monitoring and evaluating the career development awardees progress toward independence? K08 Scored Review Criteria Environment & Institutional Commitment to the Candidate Is there clear commitment of the sponsoring institution to ensure that
the required minimum of the candidates effort will be devoted directly to the research described in the application, with the remaining percent effort being devoted to an appropriate balance of research, teaching, administrative, and clinical responsibilities? Is the institutional commitment to the career development of the candidate appropriately strong? Are the research facilities, resources and training opportunities, including faculty capable of productive collaboration with the candidate, adequate and appropriate? Is the environment for scientific and professional development of the candidate of high quality? Is there assurance that the institution intends the candidate to be an integral part of its research program as an independent
investigator? K Award Sections and Page Limits Specific Aims 1 page Differences of opinion on whether to include career development aims as well as research aims but research should predominate First 3 items of Candidate Information and Research Strategy 12 pages typically 50:50 career development and research Candidates Background, Career Goals and Objectives, Career Development Training Activities During the Award Period Training in Responsible Conduct of Research 1 page Statements by Mentor, Co-Mentor, Consultants, Contributors 6 pages
Description of Institutional Environment 1 page Institutional Commitment to Candidates Research Career Development 4 pages Biographical Sketch 4 pages Why is grant writing so hard to learn? In the past has not been seen as a concrete, teachable skill Informal mentoring as a process is very idiosyncratic with high degree of variability in skills taught Often tacit (or even explicit) belief among some scientists that being able to figure it out by yourself is one of the determinants of whether or not you belong in the Community
All of our approaches and research are challenge these myths and assumptions Teaching and learning proposal writing All learning starts with teaching new information/patterns/ skills that you could not be expected to know Practice/apply no substitute! This is where short workshops fall short practice is best with something that matters Feedback from experts where peer groups alone are limited Repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat get the message? Must start with small bits to learn from to avoid wasted time and inaccurate learning Principles sometimes followed in lab training but seldom in
papers and proposals wasted effort on figuring it out Providing feedback under expert guidance VERY fast way to practice and learn Oral feedback as an option vs. written Both can be very helpful not either/or Written feedback strengths Written alternatives/explanations to work from Can be thoughtful response considering alternative Witten feedback limitations Hard to get detail and focus Actually very slow processing in typing limited details Looks fine to me limited critical attention
Oral feedback as an option vs. written Oral feedback strengths: Much more rapid and replicates initial response of the reader first impressions matter Can compare reactions of multiple brains very quickly Can reveal thinking leading up to reactions logic path Able to think out loud and consider multiple options Engages the writer and reader in dialogue multiple rapid iterations toward revision Oral feedback limitations: Thinking out loud can be interpreted as final not fluid Not everyone comfortable with spontaneous reactions
prefer to mull over before declaring Need way to capture conversation or can slow down Group/peer feedback vs. single expert Both have great strengths done right! Group is stronger teaching/learning paradigm observe multiple iterations and logic of expert Able to practice on others much easier than self! Rapidly reveals what the expert writer forgets to tell reader Expert (coach) can teach many people at once! Can be incredibly time efficient Attention and feedback visible group keeps all on task
DONT think of it as CRITIQUE it is all about cognitive display When I read this paragraph this is what my brain is doing. Youre neuroscientists, you get this, right? Critical elements of peer groups/feedback Well-intended but still novices coach buffers/guides You are not writing for reviewers TOO far outside your field so those outside cant expect it to be understandable by them Not about critique and strong opinions about what is right way Ideal if senior faculty can moderate or coach the group Great insights and even collaborations possible from those close to the field unique form of networking with others
you might never bump into So what do you do with all of this???? Do NOT feel bad if you dont know how to write a proposal how could you? Approach it as a skill to master like pipetting Look for ways to understand and learn SKILLS, not just do it over and over like our videos Get feedback on small pieces of early writing, but big enough for someone to get context Think seriously of getting oral feedback to capture reactions/thinking of others record it you can never write fast enough Seriously consider writing in groups with a more experienced person to
coach the group but giving feedback, NOT critiquing It actually will take less of their time than typing and broader impact Can work virtually once group dynamic established 20 Faculty Grant Writers Groups began in 2008 Began developing approach in mid-1990s Every 4 months Whose writing a proposal? Everyone comes with paper copy of Specific Aims page, or research questions, hypotheses if just getting started In real time, read and discuss I model talking through what my brain is hearing from what I read others engage too
Each week refine and revise questions, hypotheses, aims, aims page Move on to Significance, Innovation, other sections of F and K Especially effective done early during writing Have added recording of oral interchange moving more toward using oral processing methods in most feedback Groups typically meet weekly for 2-4 months 21 Grant Writers Groups - continued May go on to Approach but most often these are beyond the expertise of the group, but not always Still requires input of scientific mentors, and other mentors for K,
but focuses that time on the science while we develop writing skills and give fresh eyes to improve writing Audio recording of discussion BIG improvement - captures thinking and discussion which otherwise often lost 22 Participants so far 270+ different people since 2008 also many repeats Roughly 30-50% stay the course in each group Some realize they need more time, preliminary data, pubs Always positive reinforcement many return to new groups Faculty mentors refer Fellows and junior faculty to the group
NO instances of mentors reacting negatively As could be expected, difference of style and content between group and mentors pop up good teaching tool, careful not to be dogmatic or proscriptive about only one way to write At least 59 proposals funded to people who have been in groups many pending and in various stages of resubmission - ~50% 3 perfect 10s on K and R03 proposals 23 Take-Home Messages Writing research proposals is an invaluable element of high quality research Writing research grants is a teachable, learnable skill
Often not approached as such because of the focus of research training on informal mentoring Effective grant writers (i.e. mentors) often cant explain or deconstruct why they write the way they do and why it works The ability to write and sound like what reviewers expect is a central ingredient of being judged as a legitimate member of the research community strong social underpinnings It is extremely difficult to become a skilled writer by yourself look to colleagues and groups as invaluable resources More Take-Home Messages Get feedback early and often on small pieces of writing Recognize you will get different perspectives from different
kinds of readers See if you can get people to think out loud as they read reveal what they are thinking as they read Feedback on a full proposal is great but requires a lot of time be sure to have the right people do it Dont let writing proposals hold you back!
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