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Greatness in Grant Writing

As a first time AHA Scientific Session attendee, I was thrilled with the diversity of topics covered in today’s program. As I learned about topics ranging from structural racism in science and healthcare to the difficulty associated with diagnosing hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, I had the opportunity to see some of the major challenges that prevail in cardiovascular health and was in awe of the advances being made to address them.

As a researcher constantly striving to write better grants and fellowships, I would highly recommend checking out the recording of “My first grant writing breakthrough — tips and tricks for early career researchers” by Lifestyle Council’s Early Career Committee. In this Zoom hosted chat, Dr. Alain Bertoni (Wake Forest School of Medicine), Dr. Norrina Allen (Northwestern University), and Dr. Kara Whitaker (University of Iowa) shared their secrets for grant writing success. Below are a few points that I took away with me.

Give yourself time to write
I was surprised to learn that some of the panelists had spent years working on a research idea and crafting it into a successful R01 grant. While most of us don’t have the luxury of years to write a grant, the panelists made it clear that writing a solid specific aims page (the backbone of any NIH grant) is a long process that requires many drafts and critical feedback from close colleagues. Thus, a theme repeated throughout the panel was time. Give yourself a lot of time to write and start your grant writing process as early as possible.

Surround yourself with people that are smarter than you are

Don’t be shy, reach out to others for help. A constant theme of this session was the sense that our peers are our strongest asset. As the grant will be read by experts in the field, the panelists emphasized that it is likewise important to get feedback from knowledgeable peers to ensure that the science is exciting, the approach is solid, and that the ideas you are presenting are fundable.

Read other grants and try to gain the first-hand experience with the NIH peer review process

In a final tips takeaway, the panelists noted that one of the best ways new faculty members can learn how to write excellent grants is to expose themselves to excellent grants. This can be achieved through reading successful grants written by peers. Alternatively, the NIH has an Early Career Reviewer Program that allows early-career scientists to participate in the NIH peer review process to help them understand how grants are evaluated.

 

“The views, opinions and positions expressed within this blog are those of the author(s) alone and do not represent those of the American Heart Association. The accuracy, completeness and validity of any statements made within this article are not guaranteed. We accept no liability for any errors, omissions or representations. The copyright of this content belongs to the author and any liability with regards to infringement of intellectual property rights remains with them. The Early Career Voice blog is not intended to provide medical advice or treatment. Only your healthcare provider can provide that. The American Heart Association recommends that you consult your healthcare provider regarding your personal health matters. If you think you are having a heart attack, stroke or another emergency, please call 911 immediately.”