View Full Version : Grant Applications Recipes

Herman J. Woltring
05-02-1991, 10:08 PM
Dear Biomch-L readers,

With Dan Sheffer's kind offer of 29 Apr to relay relevant NIH funding items to
our list in the future (thanks, Dan - we can use all help that we can get!),
I think that reference to the following article may be useful:

Stephen L. Gordon, Ingredients of a successful grant application to
the National Institutes of Health. Journal of Orthopaedic Research
7(1989)1, 138-141

Summary: Many factors determine the scientific merit of an NIH research
grant application. This paper is intended to help optimize the organiza-
tion and logical development of investigators' research ideas so that grant
applications will be evaluated by the reviewers in as favorable a light as
possible. The ingredients of a successful grant application are good
ideas, good science, and a good application. The research should be based
on a significant hypothesis and, if possible, oriented towards uncovering
an important biological mechanism. Specific methods should be directly
related to each aim of the project. Likewise, the specific aims should
be related to each hypothesis. All aspects of the application should be
clear and focused. It is best to define all assumptions, limitations, and
alternative approaches. In general, the best philosophy is for the
applicant to address all possible problems before the reviewers do.

Interestingly, Sir Isaac Newton once wrote "Hypotheses non fungor" (I do not
enjoy hypotheses) but this, it would appear, interpreted hypotheses as pure
and unfounded guesswork. Yet, the duality of science as, on the one hand,
inspired and creative guesswork and, on the other hand, of the plodding,
meticulous, error-free scientist is at stake here. The impression that I
obtained from Dr Gordon's presentation at the ASB's Funding Workshop in Miami
last year was not one of NIH grants being likely to be given to completely new
ideas. In fact, some participants, either during the meeting or afterwards
wondered whether funding at the level of NIH, NRC, and similar high-leveled
organisations often occurs for projects that, in fact, already have taken
place, so that its results can be carefully predicted. If this surmise is
true, it does not bode much confidence in the extent to which this kind of
funding really promotes the Advancement of Science or, for that matter, the
openness of scientists to reveal their results at conferences before their
funding has been secured. Competition prevails not only in commercial life,
but also in academia; albeit under different guises, both are currently con-
trolled by market mechanisms.

In The Netherlands, it is (or at least used to be) much easier to secure
funds for visiting other laboratories than for just visiting conferences,
the idea being that site visits will allow to establish much more confidence
for informal exchange of information and for initiating collaboration schemes.
Be that as it may, I should think that both have their own merits, and that
congress participation can be a good introduction to such visits. Certainly,
electronic or "snail" mail is not an adequate replacement for either communi-
cation for(u)m!

Herman J. Woltring