Research Development
man presenting to a room full of event attendees

Explore pre-proposal planning, proposal development resources, and funding opportunities.

Research Development team members design and implement services that help faculty become successful in obtaining and maintaining extramural funding. Faculty members are encouraged to contact the Research Development team for assistance with pre-award activities related to identifying funding opportunities and proposal development.

logo for R01 Boot Camp
Spotlight On
R01 Boot Camp

The R01 Boot Camp — part of Michigan Medicine's Strategic Research Initiative — is a 10-month, multi-tiered, proposal development program, in which early career faculty work in small groups with senior faculty coaches to prepare a competitive NIH R01 grant proposal.

Pre-Proposal Planning & Conceptualization

Perhaps you're new to the Medical School research environment, or maybe you're a veteran researcher hoping to brush up on the latest grant proposal writing techniques. The Medical School and the entire University of Michigan offer the depth and breadth of resources of one of the country's largest, top-tier institutions.

Before you start developing your next grant proposal, make sure you have a strong foundation to be successful. Use the resources below to learn about current tips and tricks in pre-proposal planning and conceptualization. Can't find what you're looking for here? Email [email protected] and we'll connect you!

Preparation of a large, multi-investigator grant (e.g., program projects, center proposals, U awards) requires a well-developed and high-functioning team, including administrative support for grant preparation and assembly. To decrease the significant burden on faculty who prepare large-scale proposals, and to encourage and support research teams toward the submission of such grants, the Office of Research has developed the Proposal Preparation Funding Program for groups that have identified a funding opportunity and would like to submit a proposal.

The goal of the program is to provide funds to support the preparation and submission of large-scale multi-investigator grants; this program is not designed to provide support for submission of individual R01-type grants.

The Office of Research has available planning and preparation grants of up to $10,000 to facilitate the submission of large, multi-investigator research proposals.

Funding

Funding requests must be related to facilitating the team and/or preparing the grant application, and may include costs for activities such as, but not limited to, the following:

  • Travel to assemble team members for face-to-face interactions
  • Team facilitators/consultants
  • Graphic designers
  • External reviewers and red team meetings
  • Engaging project-specific administrative staff beyond regular duties

Application Deadline

There is no deadline for this program. Please contact us as early as possible in advance of a grant deadline.

How to Apply

Application materials should be submitted in a single PDF document in the order listed below. Submit all applications electronically to ([email protected]).

  • Title of the Proposal
  • Sponsor Deadline
  • Sponsor Name and Program
  • Link (website) to the RFA
  • List of the investigators (key personnel)
  • Draft of the abstract and specific aims
  • Plans and rationale: Explanation of need and use for funds, and reasons why this will increase the competitiveness of proposal; please include a timeline.
  • NIH Biosketch of key personnel
  • Budget request (not to exceed $10,000) including line items and justification, and description of how funds will be allocated for administrative support costs if applicable
  • Copy of the final proposal (to be provided after submission to sponsor)

Please note that funds cannot be given retroactively.

E-MAIL SUBMISSIONS ARE NOT ERROR-PROOF. WE ACKNOWLEDGE RECEIPT OF ALL ELECTRONIC SUBMISSIONS. If you do not receive a response from us by the end of the next business day, please call us at 734-763-4272.

Review Process

The Office of Research leadership team will review applications.

Addressing an increasing trend of reports of failure to replicate important basic/preclinical studies, the NIH has introduced new standards for grant applications that require researchers consider the robustness of their proposed research, including:

  • Scientific premise, or the research that forms the basis of proposed questions (i.e., consider the strengths and weaknesses of prior research and/or preliminary data),
  • Scientific rigor, or the strict application of the scientific method to ensure robust and unbiased experimental design and results,
  • Biological variables, such as sex, age, weight and underlying health conditions, and
  • Key biological and/or chemical resources, such as cell lines, antibodies, specialty chemicals, etc

The following resources provide context for these changes, as well as information about how to address them in your proposal sections, and we invite you to download the "Understanding Rigor & Reproducibility Standards" presentation by Jill Jividen, Ph.D., Assistant Director for Research Development.

“Journals unite for reproducibility” in Nature and in Science.

Implementing Rigor and Transparency:

NIH Overview: Principles & Guidelines
NIH Policy: Rigor and Transparency—Module 1
NIH: One-Page Resource Chart

Open Mike:

NIH OER: Rigor & Reproducibility: Guidance
NIH OER: Rigor &Reproducibility: EXAMPLES
NIH OER: Rigor & Reproducibility: FAQs
NIGMS Training Modules to Enhance Data Reproducibility

Authentication of Key Biological and/or Chemical Resources
"Extramural Nexus: “What Kind of Information Should I Include…?”
Experimental Design Assistant (pre-clinical studies)

Interested in learning more about proposal preparation and training opportunities across campus? Visit these resources for more information, including an updated listing of training events and workshops:

Proposal Development

The Medical School Office of Research has established several resources to help researchers at every stage of the grant writing process develop successful grant proposals. When you're ready to start drafting your next research grant proposal, we encourage you to explore these resources to see what may be useful to you.

Looking for a proposal development resource not listed here? Email [email protected] and let us know what you would like to see.

Writing Assistance

The U-M Proposal Writing Guide is a step-by-step guide to writing each section of a proposal for a sponsored activity, such as a research project or a curriculum development program.

The Plain Language Medical Dictionary is a web-based tool developed by the Taubman Health Sciences Library containing over 1,000 medical terms. Search by typing in a specific medical term, browse all terms, or sort alphabetically.

Editorial Assistance

The Research Development Team of UMMS Grant Services & Analysis provides NIH grant editing support to medical school faculty. This free service is available to medical school faculty PIs as needed on a first come, first served basis on near-final drafts of NIH R01-equivalent grant proposals and NIH Large-Scale Proposals (P01, P50, etc.).

What We Do:

  • Provide editing support on near-final drafts of NIH R01-equivalent grant proposals and NIH Large-Scale Proposals (e.g., P01, P50, U54 mechanisms)
  • Correct grammar, spelling, punctuation
  • Clarify meaning and refine language
  • Give feedback on readability and presentation
  • Provide red-line mark-up and comments in Track Changes

For NIH R01-equivalent proposals:

  • Grant proposal editing services include up to 1-hour initial meeting with PI and 4 hours of editing service.
  • To have the best chance of obtaining an appointment for grant editing services for NIH R01-equivalent proposals, please submit an intake form at least 4 weeks in advance of the NIH agency deadline. We will follow up with availability and additional questions regarding your service request.

For NIH Large-Scale Proposals:

  • Grant proposal editing services include up to 1-hour initial meeting with PI and 4 hours of editing service per project/core within the large-scale proposal (e.g., a large-scale proposal with 3 projects and 2 cores would be eligible for up to 20 hours of free grant editing services)
  • To have the best chance of obtaining an appointment for grant editing services for a large-scale proposal, please submit an intake form at least 8 weeks in advance of the NIH agency deadline. We will follow up with availability and additional questions regarding your service request.

What We Don’t Do:

  • Review/edit references
  • Assist with graphics

If you would like to request grant editing support, please fill out an intake form. Please note: In general, a request for grant proposal editing cannot be accommodated within 10 days of the agency deadline. While we do everything we can to assist faculty with their grant editing needs, our ability to accommodate requests is determined by current demand and staff availability. If we do not receive your grant proposal for editing by the agreed upon date, we reserve the right to re-schedule or cancel support in order to assist other faculty. Please direct any questions to [email protected].

Provides no-cost services and consultation to assist investigators in designing, writing, and submitting external grant proposals. Visit the MICHR website to get started.

The Medical School Office of Research has developed lists of individuals available for freelance work who can assist with various types of writing, editing, graphics design and medical illustrations needed to advance grant proposals, manuscripts, IRB applications, dissertations, etc.  

Please refer to the individual's description for more information about their experience. If interested, please contact them directly to negotiate the work statement and payment arrangements.   

Note: If you hire a University of Michigan employee to do freelance work, please refer to: U-M Standard Practice Guide 201.85 – Non-Appointment Related University Compensation. In accordance with U-M Procurement Services, a University of Michigan P-Card should not be used for payments of this nature, and any agreement should be signed by Procurement Services, not the individual unit. Please refer to the U-M Procurement Services website for additional information.

Questions about this list can be directed to [email protected].

 

Freelance Editors

 

Freelance Graphics Specialists

 

Academic Writing & Research Development Series

Researchers at the University of Michigan are fortunate to have access to a wide range of programs to help them with grant development. Many internal opportunities including workshops, seminars and webinars are hosted regularly, and U-M community members who are interested in events across the research enterprise are encouraged to sign up for the Medical School Office of Research newsletter Research News and OVPR’s Research Blueprint.

In addition to on-campus opportunities, U-M faculty, staff, and learners have access to several on-demand resources that provide tips on preparing grant applications. The following are currently available at no-cost to U-M researchers through sponsored university memberships:

National Center for Faculty Development & Diversity (NCFDD)
The National Center for Faculty Development & Diversity (NCFDD) provides on-demand resources that focus on increasing research and writing productivity while maintaining work-life balance. Examples of webinars available through NCFDD include Moving from Resistance to Writing and How to Align Your Time with Your Priorities (an NCFDD account is needed to access).

Nature Masterclasses
Nature Masterclasses is a new suite of online courses available to researchers at all 3 U-M campuses. Nature Masterclasses offer self-paced instruction and flexibility to accommodate busy schedules. The course selection includes relevant content throughout the research lifecycle, including grant-related topics such as Persuasive Grant Writing, Finding Funding Opportunities, and Effective Science Communication. More information about the platform, including instructions on how to register can be found here.

UMMS Office of Research YouTube Channel
The Grant Services & Analysis Office (GS&A), a Unit of the U-M Medical School Office of Research, hosts a YouTube playlist dedicated to grant topics. The playlist includes on-demand videos that highlight best practices for developing and enhancing the administrative components of NIH grant applications, including Biosketch Basics and Budgets in NIH Grant Applications. There are also several videos to assist faculty in navigating grant resources in UMMS.

The University of Michigan has a wealth of resources for faculty and learners developing grant proposals, including on-demand options that provide flexibility learning opportunities.  Do you have any great grant-related resources to share? We’d love to hear about them. Contact us at [email protected] to share your suggestions and resources.

Sharing scientific data accelerates research discoveries and enables large-scale analyses and reproducibility. Data sharing is an important part of open science, and many funding agencies have policies requiring the sharing of research data. NIH issued their Data Management and Sharing (DMS) policy (effective January 25, 2023) to promote the sharing of scientific data generated from NIH-funded research, thus requiring applicants to submit a DMS Plan for proposals including Research Projects, some Career Development Awards (Ks), Small Business (SBIR/STTR) grants, and Research Centers.

Planning & Budgeting for Data Management and Sharing
NIH expects applicants to submit a plan to describe how they will manage and ultimately share data. Applicants are also allowed to include certain costs associated with data management and sharing in their budget. NIH encourages applicants to consider the following

  • Determine if your proposed research is subject to the DMS policy. NIH has a website that provides information about research and activities covered by the DMS policy.
  • Identify appropriate methods/approaches and repositories for managing and sharing scientific data. NIH encourages the use of established repositories, and prioritizes discipline-specific data repositories. Refer to the list of NIH-supported data repositories to make a plan for your data.
  • Develop a plan for managing and sharing scientific data and include it in your application or proposal. NIH recommends that six elements are included in DMS Plans: 1) Data type; 2) Related Tools, Software and/or Code; 3) Standards; 4) Data preservation, access, timelines; 5) Access, distribution, reuse considerations; and 6) Oversight of data management. More detailed information on the elements to include in the DMS Plan, including an optional format page, can be found here
  • Estimate and request funds for data management and sharing. Investigators may request funds toward data management and sharing in the budget and budget justification sections of their applications. See Budgeting for Data Management and Sharing to find out what data sharing related costs may be requested in an application for funding.

Additional Resources
Fortunately, there are several internal and external resources to assist U-M investigators with constructing a DMS Plan. DMP Tool is a free external service that simplifies data management and sharing plans for researchers and institutions. DMP Tool provides a click-through wizard for creating a DMS Plan that complies with funder requirements.

The U-M Taubman Health Sciences Library provides services and expertise for U-M researchers managing data and creating data management/sharing plans. They also provide consultations to researchers who are creating DMS Plans for NIH proposals. For examples of DMS Plans provided by University of Michigan Medical School Researchers, as well as guidance on budgeting considerations for DMS Plans, UMMS faculty and staff are encouraged to utilize our Grant Proposal Sampler (Level-2 login information required).

DMS Plans help researchers consider the management and sharing of scientific data at the design phase of a research project, making the process of disseminating data more efficient. Do you have any great grant-related resources to share? We’d love to hear about them. Contact us at [email protected] to share your suggestions and resources.

If your grant application was not funded on the first submission, don’t be discouraged. Many applications are not funded on the first try—in fact, resubmission success rates are higher across nearly all federal agencies. Revising and resubmitting grant applications is an expected component of grant seeking, and the resubmission process should be viewed as an opportunity to use reviewer comments to improve a grant application and increase the likelihood of funding.

For NIH, a resubmission is an unfunded application that has been modified following review of the initial (A0) application and resubmitted for consideration. Only a single resubmission (A1) is allowed, and it must be submitted within 37 months of the A0 application (for more details on the resubmission policy, visit the resubmissions webpage). Resubmission applications must include a one-page introduction that responds to the weaknesses raised in the summary statement and summarizes substantial changes to the application (do not mark changes within the application; see NOT-OD-24-061). 

When Should You Resubmit?
Investigators who are considering a resubmission application should be willing and able to address all the reviewers’ comments outlined in the summary statement. Resubmissions are expected to be highly responsive to the weaknesses described in the summary statement, and may require additional experiments or preliminary data to respond adequately to these issues. After taking time to review your summary statement, it’s a good idea to email the assigned program officer (PO) to discuss the reviewers’ comments and seek advice on your plan to address the critiques. The PO can provide feedback on the probability of a successful resubmission or other potential funding opportunities that might be a fit for your application.

Developing a Strong Resubmission Application
In addition to seeking advice from the assigned program officer, it’s wise to seek input from colleagues in your scientific field when preparing a resubmission application. If you’re open to sharing your summary statement with colleagues, especially those with review experience, they can help you interpret the reviewers’ comments and provide insight on how to strengthen your resubmission. Consider asking colleagues outside your scientific field to review a final draft of your resubmission, particularly the Approach section, to ensure clarity to a broad scientific audience of potential reviewers. For examples of successfully funded NIH resubmission (A1) applications here at U-M, UMMS faculty and staff can utilize our Grant Proposal Sampler (Level-2 login information required). Many of the examples include summary statements from the A0 application, as well as the one-page introduction in the A1 application that responded to the reviewers’ critiques.

Resubmissions provide an opportunity to improve grant applications and the research they propose through the scientific review process. Do you have any great resubmission resources to share? We’d love to hear about them. Contact us at [email protected] to share your suggestions and resources.
 

Diversity in the scientific workforce enhances research by leveraging different backgrounds, perspectives, and experiences. While diversity is recognized as an important aspect of scientific innovation, a recent report from the National Science Foundation highlights the ongoing underrepresentation of diversity in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Women, individuals with disabilities, and individuals from some racial and ethnic groups (Black, Hispanic, and American Indian or Alaska Native) continue to be underrepresented in STEM occupations in the United States.

Several grant funding agencies are making funds available to support the development of a diverse research workforce. For example, NIH funds Research Supplements to Promote Diversity in Health-Related Research to provide support for recruiting and mentoring individuals who are underrepresented in the biomedical, clinical, behavioral and social sciences. Principal investigators of active eligible NIH research grants may apply for diversity supplements to support the career development of eligible trainee-candidates. NIH invites diversity supplement applications for eligible candidates ranging from high school to the faculty level who are from diverse backgrounds, as detailed in the Notice of NIH’s Interest in Diversity (NOT-OD-20-031).  The proposed research experience in a diversity supplement application must be an integral part of the approved, ongoing research of the parent award, and it must have the potential to contribute significantly to the research career development of the candidate. 

Principal investigators on active parent NIH grants who are interested in diversity supplements are encouraged to:

  • Determine if you have an eligible grant (rules vary by institute)
    - Refer to PA-23-189 to review a list of eligible parent grants.
    - Talk to the program officer of your parent grant about eligibility and the timing of a potential diversity supplement in relation to your grant project period.
  • Determine the eligibility of potential candidates. Contact the program officer of the diversity supplement program for your NIH institute before preparing an application to confirm candidate eligibility and submission dates. 
  • Review application components
    - Diversity supplement applications contain multiple sections (see PA-23-189 for general instructions) and may vary somewhat among institutes. Be sure to consult institute-specific special instructions.
    - For examples of successfully funded NIH diversity supplement applications here at U-M, UMMS faculty and staff are encouraged to utilize our Grant Proposal Sampler (Level-2 login information required).

NIH diversity supplements are funding opportunities that aim to foster diversity and develop the research careers of individuals who are underrepresented in the biomedical sciences. They are a key component of NIH’s strategy to support a diverse scientific workforce to address complex scientific problems. Do you have any great diversity supplement resources to share? We’d love to hear about them. Contact us at [email protected] to share your suggestions and resources.

Scientific collaborations can provide opportunities for researchers to learn from other disciplines, exchange ideas and resources, and accelerate impact on complex health issues. Research teams with complementary expertise may also have more options in obtaining research funding. Many grant funding agencies, including federal agencies and private foundations, are encouraging collaborative approaches through their funding priorities. For example, funding agencies are increasingly structuring funding opportunity announcements (FOAs) and programs to favor interdisciplinary research teams.

While collaborative research has many benefits, it can also present challenges. Developing and sustaining effective collaborations takes planning and continuous work to succeed. Below we’ve highlighted areas to consider when preparing to establish a new research team.

Establishing Your Team
As outlined in this article from NIH, an important aspect of forming an interdisciplinary research team is to find collaborators that complement your experience and expertise. Constructing a research team with different areas of expertise offers an integrated approach to scientific questions, and helps to convince grant reviewers that your project is feasible. 

Are you looking for an experienced investigator to join your research team? Use Michigan Experts to find research expertise and foster collaboration. Michigan Experts is a searchable database of faulty profiles across the University of Michigan, where you’ll find publications, social media activity, and potential collaborators.

Building An Effective Team  
Scientific collaborations, like other long-term relationships, require trust and ongoing work to remain successful. When problems arise in scientific collaborations, it’s often because team members failed to define and communicate expectations of one another at the start of the partnership. The authors of Collaboration and Team Science: From Theory to Practice point out that while the scientific goal sits at the center of a collaborative research effort, other factors need to be in place for teams to succeed. In addition to trust, supporting elements of an effective research team include:

• Developing a shared vision
• Strategically identifying team members and purposefully building the team
• Promoting disagreement while containing conflict
• Setting clear expectations for sharing credit and authorship

Scientific collaborations facilitate innovation and discovery, and provide benefits for both researchers and institutions. Building effective research teams requires careful planning and continued investment in people and resources. The UMMS Research Development Team has compiled a list of resources to assist Medical School faculty and staff who are building interdisciplinary research teams and pursuing large team grants. Do you have any great collaboration or team science resources to share? We’d love to hear about them. Contact the UMMS Research Development team at [email protected] to share your suggestions and resources.
 

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is a federal agency that provides funding in basic research and innovation across certain fields of fundamental science and engineering.  NSF’s mission is to promote the progress of science; advance national health, prosperity, and welfare; and secure national defense. The agency is organized into directorates and offices that invest in specific areas of research and technology, and 93% of their $9.9 billion budget is allocated for grants and awards to support research projects, education, and related activities.

NSF held their Fall 2023 Grants Conference virtually this year from December 4-7, 2023, and provided current information on specific funding opportunities, policies, and resources. Researchers and administrators who are new to NSF funding should check out the Proposal Preparation presentation to learn tips from NSF staff including:

Finding Funding Opportunities
There are a few different ways to search funding opportunities and learn about program areas at NSF:

  • Use the NSF Funding Search to find active funding opportunities by keyword or other criteria. Potential applicants can also search NSF's database of previously funded awards to find projects in similar areas and see which NSF programs might be a fit for funding.
  • Performing a search in Grants.gov with key words will display opportunities at NSF as well as other agencies (e.g., DOD, NIH) that may potentially fund grants in your field.

Proposal Preparation
NSF has several types of funding opportunities, and proposal preparation can vary according to the specific opportunity. It is important that applicants read solicitations carefully to determine the goals of the program, eligibility of the PI and institution(s), and special proposal preparation or award requirements. 

NSF’s Proposal and Award Policies and Procedures Guide (PAPPG) outlines general guidance for the preparation and submission of proposals. The PAPPG is updated annually and provides details on submission procedures, NSF proposal documents and sections, and the review process. Proposals submitted to NSF must follow the instructions in the PAPPG unless otherwise stated in the solicitation.

NSF has numerous on-demand recordings of grant-related topics available on their Resource Center webpage. Do you have any NSF grant resources to share? We’d love to hear about them. Contact the UMMS Research Development team at [email protected] to share your suggestions and resources.

Building relationships with grant funders is an important part of strategic grant seeking. Unfortunately, many grant applicants with great research ideas have their proposals declined because they do not align with the funding agency’s priorities. For applicants seeking federal funding, communicating with Program officers (POs) is an important part of the application process that can improve the chances of funding. For both NIH and NSF, building a relationship with a PO is a strategic way for researchers to align their scientific interests with the specific goals of an NIH Institute or an NSF Directorate.

Why you should contact a program officer
Program officers typically provide technical and administrative assistance to applicants who are preparing grants, and often serve as the liaison between an applicant and the grant review committee. As Robert Porter outlined in the article Can We Talk? Contacting Grant Program Officers, engaging in dialogue with a PO can: 1) determine whether the researcher’s concept is a good fit for the program’s objectives; 2) provide advice about project design and appropriate funding mechanisms; 3) ascertain trends in preferred research methodologies; and 4) identify possible limits in project duration and budget.

Finding and contacting a program officer
Applicants can identify POs by looking for contact information on a specific Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO), or searching agency websites. NSF recommends searching the NSF funding website using keywords or research areas to explore funding opportunities. NIH has a tool called Matchmaker where applicants can enter abstracts or other scientific text to find potential POs and ICs for their research. Always email a PO first (no cold calls!) and do it early in the grant development process. Don’t wait until right before your grant deadline to reach out – POs are busy people. Be prepared to share a project overview or specific aims draft, and don’t overwhelm the PO with papers and materials.

Program officers are a key resource in grant seeking, and ultimately your research career. Don’t hesitate to reach out to a PO and begin building this important relationship. Do you have any great grant-related resources to share? We’d love to hear about them. Contact the UMMS Research Development team at [email protected] to share your suggestions and resources.

When writing a research proposal, it is important to consider who will be reviewing your grant application. Successfully communicating your research plan to its intended audience is essential to developing a fundable proposal. Once you have confirmed that your research idea is a fit for a sponsor, aim to do the following before applying for a grant:

Identify Your Reviewers

A strategic approach to grant development includes familiarizing yourself with the review process of the potential grant funding agency of your proposal. Taking the time to investigate your target audience can help you tailor your application accordingly. Ask yourself:

  • Who is likely to be a reviewer for this proposal?
  • What knowledge does the audience already have? What will need to be explained to them?

If you are applying for funding from a foundation, for example, the reviewers may be more of a lay audience. Conversely, the primary audience for a grant application submitted to NIH is a scientific review group (study section) made up mostly of scientists in academia. For additional information on study sections, refer to this NIH article Know Your Audience.

Tailor Your Proposal for Your Grant Audience

Once you’ve done your homework to figure out who your reviewers will be, write your proposal with that audience in mind. Your goal is to convince your grant audience that your research project is well planned and feasible, and that you and your team are qualified to conduct it. Make sure your proposal is persuasive, appropriate for the sponsor’s goals, and uses accessible language. In general, grant audiences tend to share the following attributes:

  • They have at least a broad knowledge of the proposal’s content area, but may not be an expert in your field – make sure to write at a level all audience members can understand.
  • They are busy people with many grants to review– make sure your proposal is well written and organized to help the reviewers.

Beyond that, the sponsor’s specific requirements and review criteria are the best guide for what your grant audience expects. It is critical to read the application guidelines and follow the instructions closely to convey your research plan appropriately to reviewers.

Tailoring your research proposal to its intended grant audience can capture the attention of reviewers and increase your chances of funding success. Do you have any great grant-related resources to share? We’d love to hear about them. Contact the UMMS Research Development team at [email protected] to share your suggestions and resources.

The Specific Aims page is widely regarded as the most important page of an NIH grant application. In this component of your grant, the objectives of the proposal should be described clearly and concisely since it will be used by the Scientific Review Officer (SRO) to recruit reviewers for your application. In addition, most members of the study section who review your proposal will only read the Specific Aims page and the project summary/abstract of the application. Thus, the purpose of the Specific Aims is to tell the entire story of your proposal in one page that will excite reviewers, inspire confidence in the PI and research team, and set the framework for the rest of the application.

Components of an Effective Specific Aims Page

There are several helpful online resources available that provide examples and guidance on how to construct a compelling Specific Aims page, including a BioScience Writers article NIH Grant Applications: The Anatomy of a Specific Aims Page and an article from NIH/NIAID on how to Draft Specific Aims. Briefly, the suggested structure and content of a Specific Aims page is as follows:

  • Introductory paragraph: Use the first paragraph to capture the attention of the reviewers. Describe the significant gap in knowledge that directly relates to the critical need the granting agency funds.
  • Second paragraph: Use this paragraph to introduce the solution that fills the gap in knowledge described in paragraph #1. Lay the groundwork for convincing your reviewers that you (and your team) have the knowledge and expertise to solve the problem.
  • The Aims: In this section, you will briefly describe each of the aims you will use to test your hypothesis. Within 2-4 sentences per aim, describe the experimental approach and how each aim will help answer your larger hypothesis.
  • Final/summary paragraph: The final paragraph should describe what is innovative about your project, the expected outcomes of the proposal, and the broader impact it would have on your area of research.

Assessing Your Aims

Writing a Specific Aims page should be an iterative process. After you have constructed the first draft of your Specific Aims, ask yourself:

  • Would reviewers see the proposed project as tackling an important problem in a significant field?
  • Would reviewers view the Specific Aims as capable of opening new discoveries in this field?
  • Would reviewers regard the work as new and unique?
  • Would reviewers view the Specific Aims as likely to exert a significant influence on the research field involved?
  • Are the Specific Aims written clearly and are they easy to understand?

After you do a self-assessment on your Specific Aims, it’s beneficial to get critiques from colleagues as well as others who aren’t in your research field. If a diverse group of researchers understands your Specific Aims and gets excited about them, it’s more likely a panel of reviewers will as well. Consider doing a Chalk Talk within your department for added benefit, and be sure to invite investigators who have been successful in obtaining funding and those with experience serving on study sections.
 
While the guidance provided above highlights an effective structure of a Specific Aims page, there is flexibility in how elements can be organized and presented. For specific examples of Specific Aims pages from funded proposals in various fields of research, UMMS faculty and staff are encouraged to utilize our Grant Proposal Sampler (Level-2 login information required). Do you have any great grant-related resources to share? We’d love to hear about them. Contact us at [email protected] to share your suggestions and resources.

Transformative discoveries often happen as a result of bold scientific breakthroughs rather than incremental advances, but the conventional grant review system is largely designed for focused research projects and “safe science.” Securing funding for innovative, high-risk projects generally requires different strategies, including targeting specific grant mechanisms that support risky science. These innovative grant mechanisms generally put less emphasis on preliminary data than on vision, logical reasoning, and potential impact. Several federal funding mechanisms and programs are available for investigators with ambitious ideas:

  • NIH’s High-Risk, High-Reward Research (HRHR) Program supports scientists at all career stages who are proposing outstanding high-risk, high-impact research. Preliminary data and detailed experimental plans are not required for any of the HRHR mechanisms, and any topic relevant to NIH’s mission are welcome for submission. Grant mechanisms in the HRHR Program include:
    • Early Independence Award Program (DP5)
      • For exceptional junior scientists bypassing postdoctoral training to launch independent research careers
      • Single PI only; Must be in non-independent research position; Limit of 2 applications per institution
    • New Innovator Award Program (DP2)
    • Pioneer Award Program (DP1 )
      • Open to all career stages; Single PI only; Must be new research direction
    • Transformative Research Award (R01)
      • Supports individuals or teams proposing transformative projects that are inherently risky and untested but have the potential to create or overturn fundamental paradigms
      • Open to all career stages; No preliminary data required; Anonymized review process; Not on regular R01 cycle (only one deadline annually)
  • The Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health (ARPA-H ) is a recently launched federal funding agency that provides research funding to create new opportunities and solve important problems through ambitious, well-defined, and measurable programs. Each program is led by a Program Manager who champions a core idea, frames a challenge, and awards projects to multidisciplinary teams of performers, whose work is then measured and evaluated to ensure that only the best solutions advance. ARPA-H currently funds performers through:
    • Targeted Programs that are proposed by Program Managers
      • Targeted programs are updated frequently, are typically open for a short period of time, and have tight deadlines
    • An Open Broad Agency Announcement (Open BAA) that seeks to fund proposals that investigate unconventional approaches and enable leaps forward in science and technology

The U-M Medical School Office of Research is also investing in researchers’ bold science through the Research Scouts program, an internal program that funds early-stage ideas that can transform our current understanding of a scientific concept or field, challenge common dogma, or are wildly new and imaginative. The primary goal of the Research Scouts program is to catalyze new, exciting lines of investigation by making bold, creative ideas possible. Medical School researchers with radical scientific ideas are encouraged to apply for funding.

Do you have any bold research ideas or great grant-related resources to share? We’d love to hear about them. Contact the UMMS Research Development team at [email protected] to share your suggestions and resources.

Writing successful grant applications is a lengthy process that begins long before a great research idea is born. Grant applicants who are well-positioned to seek funding are at a competitive advantage compared to other applicants who have not done advanced preparation in “grant readiness.” In the field of Research Development, grant readiness is the concept of strategic planning for research funding - i.e., augmenting the qualifications, expertise, resources, networks and preparation needed for investigators to develop competitive grant proposals.

Before you begin writing your proposal, you should lay the groundwork to effectively communicate your research ideas and qualifications to potential funders. Consider the following suggestions to enhance grant readiness:

  • Before you write, Read:
    • Does your research idea closely match the interests of the funding agency?
      • Thoroughly research the funding agency and mission. Learning about sponsors’ missions, priorities, and grant processes will help you determine the best source of funding for your projects. Furthermore, targeting your proposed ideas to a funder’s needs is critical to successful funding outcomes.
    • Have you read through the Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) and application instructions?
      • It is essential to ensure each grant proposal thoroughly addresses the guidelines in a program solicitation and follows the requirements of the specific funding agency.
  • Before you write, Assess:
    • Assess Yourself
      • Do you have the necessary expertise, resources, personnel and preliminary data (if applicable) to be competitive? If not, what is your plan and timeline to obtain them?
    • Assess Potential for Your Idea
      • What has already been done, reported and funded in your field?
      • What are the “gaps”?
      • How can you take your field a step further?
      • The Research Roadmap utilized by the UMMS R01 Boot Camp Program can help you in these assessments.   
        • Assess the Competition
        • Who are the important “players” in your field?
        • What have they accomplished?
        • Identify “what” and “who” sponsors have funded. For example, if you are targeting NIH funding, use the NIH RePORTER database to search NIH-funded research projects and the Matchmaker tool to find similar projects and potential Institutes/Centers and review panels for your research.

Assessing grant readiness and getting to know potential funders are important parts of a strategic plan to increase funding success. Do you have any great grant-related resources to share? We’d love to hear about them. Contact the UMMS Research Development team at [email protected] to share your suggestions and resources.

THE WRITE STUFF

Given the constant demands and competing priorities of academia, it’s no wonder many researchers feel they don’t have time to dedicate to writing projects. In order to be productive, academic writers need to intentionally set aside protected time for writing and create accountability for themselves. Below we’ve outlined a few tips and resources for meeting your academic writing goals.

Develop a regular writing routine
Making a commitment to consistent, frequent writing time is one of the most important practices academic writers can cultivate to increase scholarly productivity and success in obtaining grant funding. If you want to find writing time you need to schedule it, just like any other important activity. Start by blocking out time in your calendar for writing and treat it as if it’s an important meeting that can’t be missed. Pick time windows that are feasible everyday (or at least several days a week) for writing to help you develop a regular writing routine. Brief, frequent writing sessions (e.g., 30-60 minutes a day) are often more productive in the long run than “binge writing” to meet a deadline.

Set writing goals
Setting goals for writing sessions can help writers develop a plan and stay motivated. In his book How to write a lot: a practical guide to productive academic writing, Paul J. Silva advises that the best writing goals are concrete. For instance, instead of setting a goal to “get some writing done”, consider defining concrete goals for a writing session. Some examples of goals for a writing session could include: 1) write at least 200 words; 2) make an outline for your next journal article; 3) finish your Specific Aims page; or 4) read some sample grant proposals to get some tips. If you’re interested in seeing samples of successfully funded grant proposals, our UMMS Research Development team maintains a Grant Proposal Sampler (Level-2 login information required) for our faculty and staff to utilize.

Create accountability
Like many aspects of academia, finding a supportive network can help you establish good writing habits and increase your chances of success. To maintain accountability in your writing practices, consider asking a mentor or colleague to be your writing accountability partner. Some faculty also find Writing Accountability Groups (WAGs) to be helpful in improving writing productivity. To initiate your own WAG, check out Johns Hopkins School of Medicine’s Writing Accountability Groups (WAGs) website for information and resources. The UMMS Research Development team is also available to assist Medical School faculty and departments in setting up WAGs.

Additional resources
For those interested in learning more about writing practices and time management, the National Center for Faculty Development & Diversity (NCFDD) has on-demand webinars and workshops on these topics. The University of Michigan has a membership to this wonderful resource, so faculty and staff members can create an account to access the materials (when setting up an account, choose U-M as your institution). Examples of webinars available through NCFDD include How to Develop a Daily Writing Practice and Mastering Academic Time Management (a NCFDD account is needed to access).

When establishing a writing routine, you must find what works for you. Keep an open mind about the various methods that are available, and feel free to seek advice from colleagues and mentors who are productive writers. For more information about achieving your academic writing goals, or to express interest in joining a facilitated Writing Accountability Group, please contact Gina Stouffer ([email protected]).

The NIH biographical sketch (biosketch) is a required component of an NIH grant proposal that enables reviewers to evaluate the qualifications of the Principal Investigator and scientific team involved in the research project. Biosketches give applicants the opportunity to describe the magnitude of their scientific contributions, as well as provide detailed information about their research experience in the context of the proposed project. Since the biosketch factors into how you rate on NIH’s Investigator review criterion, it is important to use this ancillary document as an opportunity to show the reviewers that you have what it takes to successfully carry out the aims outlined in the grant proposal. If you’re interested in building a better biosketch, check out the information and resources below.

Get Started Creating Your Biosketch
NIH biosketches must conform to a specific format. If you are creating your first biosketch or need to update an existing one, NIH has a web page with Biosketch Format Pages, Instructions and Samples to get you started. If you’re looking for a tool that can help you prepare your biosketch in the correct format, NIH encourages applicants to use SciENcv to create and maintain their biosketches. SciENcv quickly formats everything, including citations, according to NIH rules. The UMMS Research Development Team has also created several internal resources to assist our faculty and learners in the creation of their biosketches. This Biosketch Basics video gives an overview of how to construct a biosketch. In addition, we created a NIH Biosketch Checklist (Level-1 log-in credentials needed for U-M Dropbox) that outlines elements to include in the Personal Statement and Contributions of Science sections of your biosketch.

How To Create a Strong Biosketch
The Personal Statement and Contributions to Science sections of the biosketch should be utilized strategically to convey your expertise and scientific impact to reviewers. The Personal Statement (Section A) should describe how your experience qualifies you for the specific role on the project, including relevant education, expertise, and accomplishments. The Personal Statement can include up to 4 publications or research products that highlight your qualifications relevant to the project. In the Contributions to Science section (Section C) you can describe up to 5 of your significant contributions to science, and each of the contributions can include up to 4 of your publications/research products. The Contributions to Science section should focus on the impact of your work and describe how your findings have influenced or progressed science. For a more detailed breakdown on how to enhance your biosketch, check out our Boost Your Biosketch video.

The biosketch is an opportunity to sell yourself to an NIH review panel and ultimately increase the overall competitiveness of your grant application. We hope you find the resources above helpful in creating and enhancing your biosketch.

Do you have any great grant-related resources to share? We’d love to hear about them. Contact us at [email protected] to share your suggestions and resources.

The National Institute of Health (NIH) is the nation’s medical research agency that provides grant funding for basic, clinical, and translational studies. NIH is made up of 27 different Institutes and Centers (ICs), each with its own specific research agenda that often focuses on a particular disease or body system. There are numerous grant mechanisms available to each IC to support research related to their mission. Each grant mechanism has a specific purpose, and each IC uses a mix of mechanisms to structure its research portfolio.

Given the complexity of NIH’s structure and the variety of grant mechanisms, it can be difficult to navigate NIH’s processes and funding opportunities. Fortunately, NIH has several on-demand resources to help researchers understand grant-related topics and agency policies along the funding spectrum. A few of these helpful on-demand resources are described below.

NIH Virtual Grants Conference on Funding, Policies, and Processes
NIH hosts a virtual conference every year that provides opportunities to learn about grant processes, engage with experts, and gather information. The virtual format of the conference allows NIH to record presentations and share related materials after the event occurs. This year’s conference took place on February 1-2, 2023, and covered a variety of topics including Understanding NIH Programs, and Grant Writing for Success. NIH has compiled recordings, slide sets and transcripts of the presentations on the NIH Grants Conference website which you can view at your convenience.

All About Grants Podcasts
NIH hosts a podcast called All About Grants that presents information on various grant topics. The podcasts are categorized by themes such as “Advice for New & Early Career Scientists” and “Peer Review”, and are available as mp3s for download on the website and other audio streaming platforms (e.g., Apple and Spotify). Each podcast episode is short (typically less than 15 minutes) and provides valuable insight from NIH staff and content experts.

NIH Grants YouTube Channel
The NIH Grants YouTube Channel contains grant and funding information that is updated regularly. Investigators and research administrators can explore videos on specific areas of interest, including NIH’s new Data Management and Sharing Policy.

Utilizing NIH on-demand resources can help you learn about the agency, understand new policies, and provide you with pertinent knowledge from subject matter experts. Do you have any great grant-related resources to share? We’d love to hear about them. Contact us at [email protected] to share your suggestions and resources.

Whether they realize it or not, researchers have a huge impact on who does and does not benefit from research. This means that DEI should influence every stage of the research process - from the brainstorming phase of a research question, to its outcomes, to the eventual dissemination of results. In the report “Bridging the Research Gap: A Toolkit on Inclusive Research and Development Practices”, author Katelyn Jones outlines five strategies that researchers can implement to ensure their projects address DEI from start to completion:

  • Build Diverse Research Teams
    • Faculty can facilitate DEI within their own laboratories by creating an inclusive culture that values diverse perspectives.
      • When building research teams, emphasis is often put on including individuals with expertise in different fields. Equally important, however, is including people with different backgrounds and experiences.
      • Diverse teams are smarter, more innovative and have a competitive advantage. By recruiting people with diverse experiences, you build a team that recognizes different problems and understands the barriers to solving them.
  • Assess DEI in Research Questions and Project Aims
    • Once assembled, research teams should consider DEI principles when generating research questions and project aims.  
      • Questions to consider: How can our project encourage equity and inclusion? Do our study questions use inclusive language and the preferred terms of the communities being studied? Have we surveyed the impacted population/community to ensure our research responds to their needs?
  • Examine Resources and Citation Practices
    • Researchers should be aware of potential biases in the methods they use as well as prior research cited.
      • Research teams should examine the resources they use as well as the scientific literature they reference. Ensuring a diverse set of perspectives and researchers in literature searches can reduce bias and enrich your knowledge base.
      • Referencing a diversity of sources and researchers will help elevate the work of under-cited scientists, and has the potential to create a more equitable global research environment.
  • Review Methods and Data Collection
    • Research teams should review their data collection processes through a lens of inclusivity for study participants. When finalizing methods of data collection, teams can ask the following questions:
      • What languages does the survey need to be available in?
      • Is the survey easily understood by people of different reading levels and ability levels?
      • What are the consequences, benefits or barriers related to specific data collection methods (e.g., online vs. in-person vs. home visits)?
  • Plan for Meaningful Research Dissemination
    • The modes of research dissemination must be planned for in the context of the research questions and project aims. For example, if the aims of the project are related to improving the health of a community, the findings should be made available in formats that the community can access and understand (i.e., not just to experts in the field). Careful thought needs to be put into how information is shared with various audiences, including:
      • Written materials in multiple formats (e.g., print, online, social media) that use clear language and engaging content.
      • Virtual meetings and videos that include closed captioning.
      • Public events that are planned with a focus on inclusion and accessibility.

When researchers implement DEI measures throughout every stage of the research process they create diverse, inclusive, work environments that produce innovative science and more equitable results. What steps are you taking to achieve more inclusive research? Contact us at [email protected] to share your thoughts and resources related to DEI in research.

This article contains content modified from Jones, K. C. (2020). Bridging the Research Gap: A Toolkit on Inclusive Research and Development Practices. Additional sources include How to begin building a culture of diversity, equity, and inclusion in your research group and University of Oregon’s Resources for Researchers Promoting DEI in Lab and Field.

Large-Scale Proposal Support

Large-Scale Proposal Support

The Research Development Team has compiled a list of resources to assist Medical School faculty and staff who are building interdisciplinary research teams and pursuing large-scale grant proposals. If you have additional resources to help our faculty navigate large-scale proposal support at U-M, please email us at [email protected]. Click on the image below to navigate.

screenshot of the interactive flowchart, created in Genially

 

The Research Development Team in UMMS Grant Services & Analysis provides proposal development assistance for NIH Large-Scale Proposals (e.g., P01, P50, U54). We recognize that complex proposals require additional support in terms of grant coordination and project management, and our research development specialists are available to facilitate the development of proposals with multiple projects and cores. This free service is available to medical school faculty who are serving as the lead PI on a complex NIH Large-Scale grant proposal on a first come, first served basis. Principal Investigators in the medical school who are interested in this service must fill out and submit an intake form.

What We Do:

  • Meet with the PI, research administrator, and research team to develop timelines and project checklists outlining required sections, deadlines and responsible parties
  • Provide templates, samples and boilerplates of proposal sections including facilities and resources, budget justifications and human subjects' sections
  • Review application sections compiled by the research administrator including biosketches, resource pages and letters of support
  • Grant proposal editing services

*If you are requesting the full list of large-scale proposal services detailed above from the UMMS Research Development Team, we must be contacted as early as possible in the planning process (at least 9-12 weeks before the agency deadline). If only grant proposal editing services are desired, please submit an intake form at least eight weeks in advance of the agency deadline. In the event that the PI is unable to meet the deadlines established in collaboration with the Research Development Team, we reserve the right to re-schedule or cancel support in order to assist other faculty. Please direct any questions to [email protected].

Demonstrating Institutional Support

During this time of restricted financial resources, describing the wide range of institutional resources available at the University of Michigan will help demonstrate to your sponsor the ready-for-success environment for your study.  Financial cost sharing is not typically an option, but conveying the depth of support already available to you can equally convince peer reviewers that your study has all the integral components to be a complete success.

When composing sections of your grant proposal, be sure to highlight the scientific environment and institutional investment at U-M that will contribute to the success of your research. Your sponsor will consider environment as part of their evaluation of your grant proposal, so be sure to give as much detail as possible about the available institutional resources that are relevant to your research. For example, at the NIH reviewers are asked to consider the following criteria:

  1. Will the scientific environment in which the work will be done contribute to the probability of success?
  2. Are the institutional support, equipment and other physical resources available to the investigators adequate for the project proposed?
  3. Will the project benefit from unique features of the scientific environment, subject populations, or collaborative arrangements?

In each of the following sections of a proposal, you may wish to address the specific concepts below.

Consider adding comments on:

  • The physical location of your co-investigators/collaborators. Describe...
    • The physical proximity to the study site
    • Videoconferencing capabilities that facilitate interaction among members of the research team
  • The attendees of lab meetings if they are externally-funded investigators not formally named in your specific research study, but who complement your research or provide intellectual support.
  • Any unique opportunities, programs or cores provided by your department or the university that may set you apart from other applicants.

For instance, the University of Michigan is a resource-rich scientific environment that has invested in research infrastructure and support to enhance your science and ensure your success. Below are some facilities and resources that may be relevant to highlight in your grant proposal:

It may make a difference to highlight the accessibility to equipment that is not common in most labs. Do you have a shared item that is essential to your project and is available to you on demand? Is there a piece of equipment that is important to your success and is already provided at no cost for its use, or do you get subsidized rates?

  • Be sure to list major items of equipment already available for your project, including reference to non-standard equipment that is available at cores throughout the university. For a comprehensive directory of university-wide research core services including a catalog of equipment available, please visit the University of Michigan Research Cores website.
  • Where appropriate, identify the equipment's location and pertinent capabilities.

Keep in mind that research investigators may need to report Other Support/Pending Support to funding agencies. This provides additional opportunities to highlight research environments that will help convey a culture of success. If Other Support is required in the submission, use it as another place to highlight access to support the research.

Some sponsors require details of all financial and non-financial resources to which a faculty member may have direct (or indirect) access.  This may include descriptions of access to resources through material transfer or data use agreements; research-related grants, contracts, and cooperative agreements (regardless of whether the award is at U-M); or affiliations to other institutions through other non-U-M appointments/positions.   All of these may open doors and opportunity to resources provided by non-U-M entities that are not freely available to other researchers (e.g., laboratory equipment, research materials, lab personnel, etc.)

The NIH requires extensive detail for Other Support.  The Office of Research and Sponsored Projects (ORSP) offers clarification and guidance. See Disclosure of Other Support below for additional information.

Consider including letters of support from the chair, a close mentor, colleagues or the Chief Scientific Officer (for large scale projects) that convey the structural support that U-M will provide for your study.  More importantly, obtaining enthusiastic letters of support from leadership in the organizations or communities necessary to conduct your study is a particularly strategic approach, especially if the groups provide assistance or access to something that you wouldn’t typically have for your research (e.g., laboratory equipment to run samples, availability of a specific patient population, etc.)  However, don’t overdo it– it is important to keep the letters focused on executing your research aims so that reviewers aren’t overwhelmed; use them to demonstrate you have leadership and collegial support in your unit as well as relevant organizations and communities within the envelope of support around you.

Additional Medical School Office of Research Units work to contribute resources to the success of your research. The Grant Services & Analysis unit provides materials for developing the Facilities and Other Resources element for your grant application, including information on requirements and resource profile templates.

Supporting Materials Assistance

Consult with the Cores to help establish the scope and budget of your project, coordinate funding applications, and for investigator-focused training opportunities.

Facility & Resource Profile Templates - These boilerplate descriptions are meant to be adapted by the user to fit his or her needs, e.g., writing grant proposal resource sections, marketing, recruiting.

Requesting Letters of Support/Commitment - Strengthen your proposal by requesting a letter of support or a letter of commitment for cost sharing from the leadership of Michigan Medicine or the Medical School.

Budgeting Research Proposals - A list of common components in proposal budgets, including information about Budgeting and Justifications, Full Cost Budgeting, and Facility & Administrative Costs (F&A or Indirect Costs).

Budget Templates - View a variety of budget templates, including embedded formulas in editable Excel spreadsheet(s).

NIH Requirements for My Bibliography and eRA Commons - A video and slide presentation created by the U-M Office of Research and Sponsored Projects related to the NIH Public Access Policy.

NIH Authentication of Key Biological and/or Chemical Resources - An overview of NIH's required Authentication of Key Biological and/or Chemical Resources proposal documentation.

Find Funding

We coordinate internal competitions for limited submission grants to foundations; all opportunities are hosted on the Medical School Competition Space. We also manage the bridging funding program via the Biomedical Research Council (BMRC), which helps support continuity of faculty research between large grants.

Medical School Limited Submissions

Internal competitions for limited submission grants to foundations.

BMRC Bridging Support Program

Providing funding to established investigators so they may continue federally-funded biomedical research programs that demonstrate a likelihood of successfully competing for federal funding.

UMMS Competition Space

An innovative online platform that streamlines the process of finding, and applying for, funding opportunities through the U-M Medical School.

Personalized Research Funding Search Consultation

Meet with information experts at the Library to understand your research objectives and connect you to all of the tools you'll need for a successful search.

Personalized Commercialization Funding & Mentorship Consultation

Meet with a commercialization expert who can help you plan, secure funding, and advance your innovation.

Contact Us
Grant Services & Analysis
Medical School Office of Research
North Campus Research Complex, Building 520-3174
2800 Plymouth Road
Ann Arbor, MI 48109
Phone: 734-763-4272
About Us
Grant Services & Analysis is a unit of the Medical School Office of Research, where our mission is to foster an environment of innovation and efficiency that serves the Michigan Medicine research community and supports biomedical science from insight to impact.