NIDA Grantsmanship PPTs

My assignment today is turning up all sorts of interesting finds, including a couple of nice presentations by NIDA folks at the June 2007 College of Problems of Drug Dependence Conference in Canada. Scroll down to 2007 NIDA/CPDD Grant Writing Workshop to download the PPT files. One briefly addresses peer review, the other is a more comprehensive – and quite detailed – tutorial on preparing a competitive grant application. Neither is especially exclusive to NIDA proposals – concepts are the same all over.

7 Comments »

  1. PhysioProf said

    These tutorials are nice, I guess. One thing I wonder is whether they can possibly be of real use to any actual grant applicants, with “real use” defined as leading to a grant application that wouldn’t otherwise get funded ending up funded.

    On the one hand, you have PIs for whom advice like this is superfluous: they have already been steeped in a culture of science and grantsmanship, and don’t need to be told, e.g., that their specific aims should test a hypothesis, not depend upon one another, etc.

    On the other hand, you have PIs for whom this stuff is new information. “Holy crap, you mean I really need to make sure there aren’t any grammatical errors in my application?” “Ohmigosh, it’s really important to have preliminary data that show we can perform the techniques we are proposing to use?”

    Can someone for whom this is their first exposure to these ideas really be anywhere near in position to submit a credible grant application?

    Note that I am not saying the information is useless. It is all absolutely true, and necessary for every grant applicant to understand. I am just speculating that this particular means for conveying grantsmanship information doesn’t reach anyone for whom the information can be helpful.

    Those for whom this very basic information is new need to learn it by their own experience at grantsmanship and by direct consultation with grantsmanship experts (such as yourself), not by viewing a slide show.

  2. drugmonkey said

    keep in mind that this was a presentation, not just a set of slides provided to the world at large. the target audience is really postdocs and very initially-appointed scientists. I went to one of these (actually one of these specific ones, since these are my peeps) a few years in. i fell into “this is mostly review” category but there are ALWAYS some tips, hints and mnemonics that are of value. I also go to these Program meet-and-greet things, for the purposes of asking pointed questions along the lines of some of my blogo-interests. a bit wiseacre-y perhaps but it is in the hopes that comments will stick.

    I don’t think the point of IC-sponsored grant-writing workshops is really to move a just-missed to a funded grant. it is to give some basic training to people who may not have had any intro at all. sure you can say that the mid to late postdoc should be educating him/herself but they don’t. some ICs like NIDA and NIAAA take a very proprietary interest in “their investigators” and would like some transitioning scientist to write some decent grants. so they conduct these “grant writing 101” sessions. it isn’t everything but it is worth spending the afternoon doing that instead of chilling at the pool.

    at the very, very least, postdocs should see this as part of getting their faces in front of Program staff. this communicates the message that this person is seriously interested in being a funded scientist. how can it hurt when you are in the gray area and program is deciding which one to fund……?

  3. PhysioProf said

    Yeah, I see what you’re saying. It’s more by way of having something to talk about that might be attractive to junior people, so they’ll show up.

    I just think that the really effective grantsmanship info is what you get from your own experience, and the shared experiences of people like you and writedit.

    When they have internal grantsmanship seminars at my institution and my post-docs ask me if I think it is a good idea to attend, I always tell them to go to CRISP and see how many grants the speakers have. They never go. They’re much better off spending the hour reading the archives of Writedit and Drugmonkey.

  4. writedit said

    There are researchers with no access to internal or external grantsmanship seminars or even good grant mentors among the senior faculty … PhysioProf’s second category of attendees. I know this, because I met a whole University of them. Living evidence that strong science will occasionally get funded despite breaking every rule known to proposal writers … though this was before the NIH budget went in the toilet. Anyway, I know there are plenty of dear readers out there for whom even clicking through these PowerPoint files is like gaining access to the secret handshake code book.

    However, I absolutely agree that these workshop presentations alone will never (or almost never) magically empower an investigator with the ability to submit a fundable proposal. Al this info and advice is “out there” in pre-packaged presentations, handouts, tip sheets, etc. Attending a workshop does not translate into grant funding success.

    I actually have documentation of this from a series of workshops I created back in sunny Va in which I tracked attendee outcome according to how much advice they sought from me after the workshop (I offered to review/help develop proposals from draft form to near final versions). Those for whom I reviewed actual proposals (versus general consult/questions answered) and intros to resubmissions (I often rewrote these) fared much better than those who just attended the presentations. And the senior folks who sought my review services (no workshop attendance) came away with improvements they subsequently cited as likely factors in their resubmission success.

    Bottom line advice (that I follow myself in spades): have someone – as many someones as possible – review at least the specific aims page carefully and as much more of the proposal as they can stomach. No amount of book-learning or presentation gems or “I’ve always gotten my own grants” will ever, ever make up for eyeballs on the page. A lesson some know-it-all nobel laureate learned the hard way obviously.

    Drugmonkey, I suspected you attended at least one of these (I go to them too for the same reasons you cite). I asked my addiction research friends from sunny Va if they saw anyone at CPDD who looked like a drugmonkey or spoke in sarcastic lowercase, but no.

    Thanks for the kind words, PhysioProf.

  5. PhysioProf said

    “There are researchers with no access to internal or external grantsmanship seminars or even good grant mentors among the senior faculty.”

    This is a very good point, and a limitation on my own perspective, as I have never been in such an environment. Needless to say, it is likely that many of these investigators are smart creative people who could contribute substantially to the biomedical research enterprise if they obtain the resources necessary to do so.

  6. drugmonkey said

    I just think that the really effective grantsmanship info is what you get from your own experience, and the shared experiences of people like you and writedit.

    not to belabor the point, but for this one the NIDA staff dragged in Scott Lukas for one of the presentations. He’s an investigator, participates on NIDA internal study sections and happens to be a dynamic speaker. I think other similar presentations colleagues or friends have attended try to do a similar thing by bringing in at least one real-world scientist. all perspectives are useful is my mantra. just as long as one takes them as data to be interpreted rather than gospel…

  7. drugmonkey said

    “Drugmonkey, I suspected you attended at least one of these (I go to them too for the same reasons you cite). I asked my addiction research friends from sunny Va if they saw anyone at CPDD who looked like a drugmonkey or spoke in sarcastic lowercase, but no.”

    not this year, no. If I’m not mistaken, the grantwriting presentations were all given during a single afternoon session for which one pre-registers. It is not a drop-in type thing and is mostly for postdocs and recently transitioned scientists. I’ve attended in the past.

    VCU is indeed big in my field and there is even 2-degrees of training thing. likely only one or two of them would make decent guesses going on my opinions…

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