NIH & NIDCD 101: What Early Career Researchers Need to Know The following is a transcript of the presentation video, edited for clarity. ... Presentation Video
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Presentation Video  |   April 01, 2015
NIH & NIDCD 101: What Early Career Researchers Need to Know
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Alberto Rivera-Rentas
    Division of Scientific Programs, National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, National Institutes of Health
  • Presented at Lessons for Success (April 2015). Hosted by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association Research Mentoring Network.
    Presented at Lessons for Success (April 2015). Hosted by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association Research Mentoring Network.×
  • Lessons for Success is supported by Cooperative Agreement Conference Grant Award U13 DC007835 from the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and is co-sponsored by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) and the American Speech-Language-Hearing Foundation (ASHFoundation).
    Lessons for Success is supported by Cooperative Agreement Conference Grant Award U13 DC007835 from the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and is co-sponsored by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) and the American Speech-Language-Hearing Foundation (ASHFoundation).×
Article Information
Healthcare Settings / Research Issues, Methods & Evidence-Based Practice / Professional Issues & Training / Regulatory, Legislative & Advocacy / Planning, Managing and Publishing Research / Grantsmanship and Funding
Presentation Video   |   April 01, 2015
NIH & NIDCD 101: What Early Career Researchers Need to Know
CREd Library, April 2015, doi:10.1044/cred-pvd-lfs017
CREd Library, April 2015, doi:10.1044/cred-pvd-lfs017

The following is a transcript of the presentation video, edited for clarity.

We're going to be talking about NIH and NIDCD.

Summary

Summary
We'll be talking about research training and career development, institutional programs a little bit, then individual programs that may apply for you. Then the roles and responsibilities -- the message here is that you are in charge. We're just providing you opportunities. Then the lifecycle of an application. Then a little bit of pearls of wisdom. I changed the name because "grantsmanship tips" is a bit boring. Then a Q&A.
NIH and NIDCD

Fact Sheet

Fact Sheet

Fact Sheet

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The NIH, as you probably know from your experience, is the biomedical research agency of our government. It was established in 1930. We have 27 Institutes and Centers, and we are distributed sometimes by disease, condition, or organs -- or some of them are more holistic, like integrated health. And some are more specific, like the translational center we just started.
Our budget is around $30 billion, which is a lot of money, but still we all think that it's not enough. And it has been stable for a while, so that might have impacts on the ability for us to fund research.
Our mission is to seek knowledge of nature and behavior of living systems with the purpose of enhancing health, lengthening life, and reducing the burden of illness. And that's very broad. That's why we do all this research, and we have all these centers.
NIDCD – the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders – was established in 1988. We have a $404 million budget. It's not a lot of money, compared to the big ICs, but I think we do a really good job funding research.
And our mission is to conduct and support research and behavior research and research training in normal and disordered processes in seven different areas: hearing, balance, taste, smell, voice, speech, and language. We are divided in different areas, but as you see we cover a broad area of senses.

NIDCD's Intramural Program

NIDCD's Intramural Program

NIDCD's Intramural Program

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Most of the Institutes are divided by two areas. We have the Intramural program, which is research that is done inside the NIH. This one is more focused on hearing and balance. They have postdocs and positions there, but it's more focused on some specific topics.

NIDCD's Extramural Research

NIDCD's Extramural Research

NIDCD's Extramural Research

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Then we have the extramural research, which is where we are. The Division of Scientific Programs is where our portfolios are. This is where most of the money goes out for grants, fellowships, and the career awards at your home institutions.
We are organized into these different areas: hearing and balance, language, voice and speech, taste and smell chemosensory. We have a section for clinical trials, we have epidemiology and statistics, and research training. That’s how we organize and manage the different portfolios.
Then we have a Division of Extramural Activities. This is where the Office of Scientific Review is for NIDCD. This is where the fellowships and most of the career awards are being reviewed. Most of the R01s and the research awards go to the Center for Scientific Review for the study sections.
Then we have the Office of Grants Management, which is the people who do the fiscal and administrative things. They ask you for IRB and all the certifications before we can give you the money.
That's what happens – you get the money, and then you celebrate. And then grants management starts asking you for progress reports. And everybody goes like, "ugh."
But the progress report is what tells us, the program officers, how great you are doing. Please. I'm begging you. Don't leave it for the last minute. We can tell when somebody took the time to show what they have done. Instead of the ones that go, "I got the email. Last week. And I have to submit it…Tomorrow!" You can tell.

Division of Scientific Programs: Hearing and Balance

Division of Scientific Programs: Hearing and Balance

Division of Scientific Programs: Hearing and Balance

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As I said, we have different program officers organized for the different areas that we cover. In hearing and balance – noise induced hearing loss, for example, is Janet Cyr. There is her email. That's why I organized this table. If you want to contact the program officers and discuss your research, and see how your research fits their research portfolio, this would be the best way to contact them.
Then we have Amy Donahue, working with cochlear implants. Nancy Freeman, cellular development and transduction. Chris Platt on central auditory and vestibular pathways. Roger Miller does our biomedical engineering technology things. Genetics and inflammation for Bracie Watson.

Division of Scientific Programs: Language, Voice & Speech, Taste & Smell, Clinical Trials, Epidemiology & Stats, and Special Programs

Division of Scientific Programs: Language, Voice & Speech, Taste & Smell, Clinical Trials, Epidemiology & Stats, and Special Programs

Division of Scientific Programs: Language, Voice & Speech, Taste & Smell, Clinical Trials, Epidemiology & Stats, and Special Programs

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Judith Cooper does language. Lana Shekim in voice and speech. Taste and smell is Susan Sullivan. Steven Hirschfield on clinical trials. Epidemiology and stats with Howard Hoffman.
Then we have research training, all the programs with research training -- that will be me.
The Academic Research Enhancement Award -- this is a program that Chris manages. It's for institutions that don't get a lot of NIH research money. We'll help them get some money for PIs to involve other students and things like that. It's a critical program.
The R03, we'll be talking a little bit about later. It's kind of a development, and getting preliminary data program. It's a small program. That's Bracie.
The R21 is the high-risk, high-reward program that's Nancy.
And the small business and technology transfer award programs are managed by Roger.
Everybody has a specific portfolio or manages a specific program. If you have no idea where you are going, or who to talk to, or want to see what our portfolio looks like, use the NIH RePORTER.
It's a query form. You can put the keywords, "NIDCD", and you will see what has been funded in the past, what is being funded now, for whom. It gives you an idea of collaborators, it gives you an idea of who's doing similar work. So you can craft your research without overlapping other people, or submitting something that has already been funded.
I always encourage applicants to do this before contacting our POs. We are not a lot of people, and we get a lot of emails. You have to catch our attention, but you also have to do your homework.
Research Training & Career Development

Research-Training Mission

Research-Training Mission

Research-Training Mission

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Let's talk about training. What is our major goal in terms of research training? We want, as our main goal, to increase the number, quality, and diversity of well-prepared and skilled investigators in the areas that our Institute serves. Hearing, balance, language, etc.
That's very important. We support Team Science. We like to support you creating your network of collaborators as you are developing your training, by doing interdisciplinary research, and working with clinicians and basic scientists.
Our idea is we want to foster very good investigators that are innovative and creative and productive in basic science, clinical science, and translational science.

Training & Career Development Mechanisms

Training & Career Development Mechanisms

Training & Career Development Mechanisms

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I mentioned the institutional awards – many of you have been supported by T32s. Those are our institutional awards. They are given to an institution, and the institution selects the people that you're going to be training. We have them for undergraduates, predoctoral, and postdoctoral. Those are the T awards.
Then we have the individual awards. We have the fellowships (the Fs), the mentored career development awards (the Ks), and the training-related administrative supplements – we have two, the diversity supplement and the re-entry supplement. We'll talk about this program as we continue.

Research-Training Model

Research-Training Model

Research-Training Model

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So this diagram shows what we have, in terms of your academic stage. Obviously, you are more into the pre-doc, postdoc, and faculty. We have institutional programs. We have the fellowships. Then we have the career awards. Then we have -- very important -- the loan repayment program. It's a great program that will cover your educational debt, while you're still involved in research. And it's awesome. We also have the supplements for training.
Once we give you money, you're going to be wondering, "What will NIDCD be looking for?" What we want you to do is get the best education possible.
We want you to have scientific knowledge. The ultimate goal is for you to be an independent investigator. We want you to have the best research skills.
We want you to be creative.
If you are a clinician, we want you to have the best clinical skills, translational research skills.
Technical writing – if you go into this field, as you've probably heard, your life is going to be about writing. And asking for money. And being a story teller. And convincing people that you are the one who deserves the money to move forward. Grantsmanship is crucial.
Publications. If you get a fellowship from us, we expect that you will publish.
Collaborations. Networking. You need to continue that.
And the business of science. We are sometimes so into the profession that we forget that you need to know marketing tools. You need to know how to write a business plan. Once you graduate and you want to become an independent investigator, you have to think a little about the business. How you will be selling yourself. What will your goal be? How will you be successful, and have sustainability for the rest of your career? That's marketing. That's why you need a business plan. Be thinking about those.
Mentorship. We all have a responsibility to develop the next generation. The people in your lab, the lab next door, your own family – even though they might not understand the science, at least you're contributing – and doing public service.

Individual Awards

Individual Awards

Individual Awards

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Let's talk about individual awards. The individual awards are for applicants who want to continue working with faculty in mentoring relationships, with people working in areas of interest and priority for NIDCD. That's why we have the K awards, the fellowships, and the supplements. We have an expectation – your research has to fit our strategic plan.
So what do you need to read? The strategic plan. It's on our website. Sometimes I get inquiries of really interesting projects that have nothing to do with us. It's more child health and development. Or, it's so basic neuroscience that it should go somewhere else. So, please read our mission, our research priorities, and our strategic plan.
And when you contact me – usually you have to contact me to make sure we're on the same page about coming to NIDCD – please be able to say, "My research will contribute to this objective or strategic plan. It fits the mission, and this is how it's going to contribute."
And in order for you to understand how it contributes, you need to read what has been funded in the past by us. Which takes you where? To the RePORTER.

Fellowships

Fellowships

Fellowships

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The fellowships. We support dissertation fellowships for pre-doctoral students. The FOA is the funding opportunity announcement. Google that number, and you'll get the latest one. The application dates are there.
We have one that is specific for promoting diversity – for people from diverse backgrounds. And that requires the institution to include a statement of eligibility.
Then we have postdoctoral F32s that were mentioned before. Something that is unique for NIDCD, and it's one of the things that really attracted me to come to NIDCD, is we really want you to be successful. In the office of review, we do an amazing job expediting you getting the summary statements. It's amazing.
Not only that, but the quality of information the reviewers include in those summary statements is the best I have seen in three institutes. I've been in places where they just give one sentence. Like, "Innovation: lacking." You get one of our summary statements, you know what you are missing.
If you don't get funded or if you're not discussed, you have a two-day frustration limit. You go and cry. Then you come back to the table, read it, share it with your mentors, and then you say, "Okay, let me look at this in more detail."
Sometimes I get emails, if the summary statement is released Monday, around 10:00 pm that Monday the person sends me an email. This person didn't digest all the information that is there. It's a process. We can talk more about that later.

Administrative Supplements

Administrative Supplements

Administrative Supplements

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Then we have the administrative supplements. There's one for promoting diversity within the biomedical workforce. It covers from high school all the way to faculty. We are more interested in the pre-doctoral and postdoctoral levels. These supplements are for people who never had an intense immersion in biomedical research.
Then we have the ones for promoting re-entry. This is mostly for faculty. This is someone who, for example, is a faculty member then got appointed to be an acting dean. You know, if you work in an institution, being an acting dean can be a one to five year appointment. And what happens to your research? It might suffer. You might need to come back into the research arena, and this is the way to do it. Also family happens, life happens. Sometimes you have to take time off, then come back. It's a great opportunity.

What Will Be Evaluated?

What Will Be Evaluated?

What Will Be Evaluated?

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In all these fellowships and training, what is evaluated? What are they looking for?
Somebody mentioned that the fellowships have different structures and different components. The reviewers will look at your academic background. Are you getting the best education?
Your previous research training. Do you need more research training? You have to justify that. You need to tell reviewers what your weaknesses are, where you want to go, what you want to do, and justify your need for research training.
Then your research plan. Your research project has to be aligned with us.
And a proposed research training and mentoring plan – a career development plan. The reviewers love to see timelines and milestones. That's very important as you structure this.
Your mentors. Just because a person is famous, it doesn't mean they're the best mentor for your project, because it might happen that the person never published in your topic. He might be famous. He might be good to know. But it doesn't fit your project.
Then your institution. Is there commitment for you to be developed? Are there resources there? Is there space? Are you going to get a lab? Those are the things the reviewers will be looking for.

Mentored Career Development Awards

Mentored Career Development Awards

Mentored Career Development Awards

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Let's talk about the K awards. After you complete your degree, you have your postdoc, then you get the opportunity to move forward for the next step.
To qualify for a K award, you need to have a full-time position at the applicant institution. Mentors are required. It's a mentored career development award. You need to justify the need for development. Sometimes people think that just changing the experimental model means they need career development. But if you're continuing the same techniques, the reviewers are going to say, "This person is already publishing on this. Why do they need career training?"
Here are my suggestions for mentors. Sometimes you need multiple mentors. A team of mentors is welcome, as long as your application specifies what each person is going to provide you. That's very important. Sometimes you need a research field mentor. Sometimes you need a technical mentor – somebody who is an expert or created the technique or intervention is good to have on your team. And a career mentor – somebody that's a visionary, who can see you as an independent investigator and can guide you. That's very important.

Career Development Awards for Junior Investigators

Career Development Awards for Junior Investigators

Career Development Awards for Junior Investigators

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We have several programs. These are just a few. We have a ton. These are the ones that we picked, that we think you might benefit from.
The first one is the K08. This is for people who have clinical degrees, and they want to develop and become clinical investigators in basic clinical research – that means it doesn't involve patients – to lead to research independence. That's the K08.
Then we have the K23, which is also for clinical investigators, in clinical research. But this one is clinical research that will involve patients.
We have a new program, a K22, it's an NIDCD career transition award for nurturing clinical investigators. This is for newly appointed clinicians at institutions with the potential to get tenure-track, and they don't have any research experience. It's a person coming from the clinic, interested in becoming a clinical investigator. It's a person who needs to generate preliminary data and also get training. It's for appointed faculty.
Then we have the K99/R00 award. The pathway to independence. This is for more advanced postdocs who are ready to transition to independence. It's an extremely competitive program. It gives you two years of a K99 mentored career development phase, and an R00 which gets you into kind of an R01-level award for your independent research project. In order for you to activate that R00, you have to have an appointment, at an institution, as a tenure-track faculty member. It's very popular because it's a lot of money.
What I tell people is that if you're going for the K99, the date that you put in your application for consideration at the NIH, that is the day you start sending applications for jobs. Because you only have two years to complete your mentoring experience, and also two years to get a tenure-track position at another university. And guess what – that takes time. The universities need to create positions sometimes. They have to invite you. You have to present a seminar, you have to go to interviews. You might have ten interviews. But what you need is an offer letter in order for us to move you into the R00 award. It's something that takes a lot of planning.
The R03 is the small grant program that I mentioned before. This program is awesome. It's for late-stage postdocs, within seven years of your degree. It doesn't have to be a mentored program. What it does, is it allows you to get preliminary data for your K or for your R21, but ideally for you to develop a subsequent R01. So if you're submitting an R03, be mindful that we want you to generate the data for a future R01.
As I mentioned, we have other programs. We have a K01 for people that want to transition into translational research. We have a K25 for people that are more in technology or computer engineering and want to become biomedical researchers. And we have other programs for more senior faculty members – I shouldn't say senior, it sounds old – established investigators. Established investigators who want to nurture the next generation of investigators or want to do a sabbatical.

Loan Repayment Program

Loan Repayment Program

Loan Repayment Program

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Then we have the loan repayment program. I'm excited about this one because when I went to Med School, it wasn't there, so I lost the opportunity to use it. So now I'm a big advocate of it because I paid my loans.
This one is for us to encourage people to stay within the research arena. We are focused on clinical research and pediatric clinical research. We have a pretty high success rate with this program. It gives you up to two years, and it pays your educational debt, up to $35,000 per year. This is this in addition to your benefits and your salary and everything. There's the website, and the applications are in the fall. We're in the process of reviewing them. I cannot talk more highly about this. That gives you peace of mind. Don't you agree? To me, that is really helpful when you can think more about your research than about paying your student loans.

What Will Be Evaluated?

What Will Be Evaluated?

What Will Be Evaluated?

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What is evaluated in the Ks and the Loan Repayment Program? Again, your academic background. Your previous research experience. Do you need to be developed? Sometimes people want to present the best image possible, and they have no weaknesses: “There's nothing that I need to develop, but I'm going to apply for a K award.” And then when I ask them, they say, "Well, I need to do this, I need to do statistics, I need to do the modeling." I'll say, "You're not perfect then." So you need to address that, and demonstrate that you need it.
Your research project, as I mentioned before.
Your research training and mentoring plan – it has to be more focused. Remember this is a different stage. You're not a pre-doctoral student. You're close to being a faculty member or a more senior postdoc.
Mentors, collaborators, and consultants. Again, these are people that are going to have time for you and your development. Not only are they going to provide something for your research project, but they'll also need to have the time for your development. And they have to say it. They have to say it in the letters.
And the institution. Again, commitment. It doesn't have to be matching funds. It can be space, it can be support staff, biostatisticians and stuff like that.

Before Applying

Before Applying

Before Applying

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Before you apply, you need to do a self-assessment. You need to know your strengths and your weaknesses, and be humble about it. What you need to do in your development plan is provide a corrective action for your weaknesses. How are you going to fix it? How are you going to get that knowledge and that skill set?
Know where you want to be in five years.
Know if you need additional mentored training. That's the crucial part of the fellowship and the career training awards. You need to know what you need, and who's going to provide it to you.
Talk to your mentors. We talked about the research field mentors, the technical mentors, and the career mentors. That's a good approach of having a team mentor. It's also aligned with the team science approach.
Create your own Individual Development Plan. This is a catchy thing for the training community. Everybody is talking about creating individual development plans – but very few people that I know have done it, even though everybody is talking about it.
If you do it, it gives you a pathway for your next academic or career stage. ScienceCareers.org now has a web-based plan. I remember mine was on paper, but this one is web-based, and it's really useful. It gives you an assessment of the careers you might get in the biomedical enterprise. It gives you a lot of opportunities.
Then you need to sit down and evaluate your resources. I know where I am. I know where I want to go. I know who can give me the support.
You need to look at your institution or institutions – sometimes you need to change institutions to get where you want to go.
Your mentors -- you need to know who is the expert in the field where you're going to be working. And also their track record. Are these people good enough? Have they trained other people? Talk to their other postdocs. If the postdoc doesn't want to talk about the mentor – hint, hint.
Then you need to check on your collaborators and your consultants. You have to bring these people in – and your application, that has page limits, has to show all this.
What I tell people thinking about submitting a fellowship or career award is: Give yourself one year. Because you have to talk to so many people. Getting good letters, and convincing people that you are the best protégé takes time.
It's not your research project. You know your research. If you're preparing these kinds of applications, you have a research project where you are an expert. You can recite it with your eyes closed.
And then you have a career development plan that sometimes takes time, and takes pulling teeth from people. Because they are busy.
Then you sometimes need to resubmit your application, and you have to generate another letter, because it cannot be the same. And how fast is this person going to respond to you?
Take your time to do it. Because you want to present to our reviewers the best application possible. We have a bunch of reviewers. When you resubmit, sometimes it may not be assigned to the same reviewers that were assigned to your original application, but the original reviewers are in the room.
One of my great experiences at NIDCD in the review was sitting there and having this conversation -- because I'm telling you, the reviewers get engaged. They go with it. And they were saying, "Well, the person really did a great resubmission, because she answered all the questions and all the weaknesses on the summary statement." And another person that was not assigned, she was like, "Wait. Oh, I saw the first one. Oh, yeah!" And guess what, that helps the applicants.
Roles and Responsibilities
Roles and responsibilities. At your institution, you lead the process. You have to talk to your mentors. But you lead the process. Don't sit around waiting for someone to help you out. You move. You do it. It's your career. It's your life.
Then you need the help and the support of your institutional business official because they have the numbers and all the administrativa that we require in our system, from IRBs, from the IACUC, the employer identification numbers. It's the person who helps you create your eRA Commons account that you have to have active and updated. We are moving to SciENcv, so start looking for that, because you need to put your CV into SciENcv, it's moving into being the future biosketch.
At NIDCD, there is myself, the training officer. Then we have the scientific review officer. That is the one who coordinates the scientific review meeting. Then you have review group – who are the experts. They you have a second level of review, the council. Then you have the institute director who is the one who agrees with all of the reviews, and then we give you money, and then you run with it.

Roles at NIDCD

Roles at NIDCD

Roles at NIDCD

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This is more or less where we are. In Program, is myself, Lana, Julie. We're all program officers. We are the ones who do the scientific administration of the portfolios. We deal with questions pre-submission and post-review, post-award. We follow up with you. You also follow up with us, because we want to hear the good news. And the bad news too. Sometimes you have K award, and it happens that that mentoring relationship sounds good on paper. Or something happens. So keep us updated.
Then you have the scientific review officer that prepares the review of applications and convenes the meetings. They are the ones that deal with all the questions after you submit the application, prior to the review. After the review it goes back to us program officers.
Grants management does the grants policy and the fiscal management of the awards.
Application Lifecycle
This is a cartoon about the submission process. You have the idea. You discuss it with your mentors. And you come back to us, and you check with me, "Does this fit with NIDCD?" And if you have a question about research, you need to sometimes talk to our program officer in the research areas. Then you move forward, you submit it.
Then post-submission, this interaction continues. There is the review meeting, and the council meeting, and then you get the money and start preparing the reports.
Something that you need to understand is when to contact different people. Pre-submission: Myself, a training officer. Maybe the research portfolio person. Then once you submit it, you start interacting with the scientific review officer. This person, you can find out who it is through eRA Commons. After the review, you'll get your summary statement within six to eight weeks. After the review, you'll come back to us – the training officer or program officer – and we'll help you navigate the process for council, but there are no decisions until council meets, and the institute director signs the paperwork.
Then we can let you know if you get funded. You get a notice of award. You celebrate – for one day. Then you start working the next day. Because you have a progress report that we are going to be looking for.
Pearls of Wisdom and Grantsmanship Tips
Let's talk a little bit about the work. Grantsmanship tips. The pearls of wisdom. This is based on experience.
You need to tell a story. You need to like telling stories. And convincing people.
Be evidence-based and hypothesis-driven. That's very important because this is research. You don't want to put in a trip to Antarctica to see the penguins. You want to be evidence-based and hypothesis-driven.
You need to write clearly, and check your grammar. We have seen reviews where people say in the summary statement that as part of your career development your mentor should make sure you have courses in grantsmanship. So check on that.
My experience, because English is my second language, I used to take it to the English department to my friend, and I was like, "Can you check this out?" And I'd get my application back all in red. She'd be like, "You have a great project here" – she'd have no idea, because her expertise was not mine. But she'd correct how to construct the sentences. In Spanish, you invert subjects and verbs and stuff like that. So everything was the other way around. But it worked. I got funded. It's a process.
Another thing you might want to do as you are thinking about your project – check if you can explain your project to one of your friends that is a lawyer or something like that. If after that, the person has an idea of what you're planning on doing and can tell you, "This is what you're trying to do." you're giving them a concise idea of what you want to do.
I did it with my mother, but it didn't work initially, because she said, "Yes, dear. It's fine." Then I would tell my friends, and they would go, "No, I have no idea what you're trying to do."
Use active voice. Be concise and to the point. Sell yourself and your research ideas. You have to demonstrate that you know what you're talking about. That you know your background. That you know your literature. Double check, if you are proposing a hypothesis in your application, make sure there is research behind it, and use citations.
In applications, not only do you propose what you're going to do, you have to include alternate ways to prove your point, or in case something didn't work, you need to have an alternate way to get your data. You have to be sure to explain to the reviewers why you need that data, and what you're planning on doing with it.
Another thing that some people forget – when you have multiple aims, make sure they are not connected to each other. If they're not independent, and the first one fails, the project is dead. You have to provide alternates for getting your data.
Read and proofread.
Work with your mentor(s). It's very sad when you get mentorships and K awards, and you can tell that the mentors had nothing to do with the project. And sometimes the reviewers catch it, too.
Beware of the cut and paste. It wasn't in NIDCD, but somebody did a cut and paste of an application – and the text showed up in another person's application. That wasn't good.
Talk to your mentors. Make sure they read the application. Make sure your letters are clear in terms of what they will provide.
Keep your office of sponsored programs informed. Don't show up three days before you submission saying, "Oh, hey, we have to submit this." Sometimes the institution has processes in place that they have to pre-approve your application before it can be submitted. Work with them early.
And don't submit at the last minute.

Grantsmanship Tips: Research Project

Grantsmanship Tips: Research Project

Grantsmanship Tips: Research Project

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Again, in terms of the research project, be hypothesis-driven. Your specific aims should be measurable and doable. It should include preliminary data.
For your timeframe, be realistic. Try not to be overly ambitious.
Propose something that is appropriate for you, for you academic level. Sometimes, you get pre-doctoral fellowships where the reviewers will go like, "Uh huh. Yeah. That is way beyond the knowledge of a student." And they might need to scale back.
Be clear on the skills that you will develop, again talking about corrective plans.
Make sure you do scientific presentations and publications.
And include a timeline. That's very important.

Grantsmanship Tips: Career Development

Grantsmanship Tips: Career Development

Grantsmanship Tips: Career Development

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In terms of your career development and your mentoring plan, highlight your strengths. You have your biosketch and statement where you're going to say, "I've been doing this for the past ten years, getting development, getting all the fundamental research skills that I need, and now I'm going to do this." That's your strength.
Then you need to address your weaknesses. "In order to move into doing this, I need to get more biostatistics training. I need to learn modeling. I need to learn more technology. More imaging."
Define the skills that you will develop. That's very important, because that will go into your corrective actions – the specific activities that you're going to do.
Your sponsor or mentors. Again, it's not whether it's a famous person, it's what this person's going to do for you. That should be clear on the statement. Write a very strong statement with their commitment of time, how they're going to help you move on and move up. And contributions to your development by providing support and providing resources, providing time.
The institutional statement. Sometimes they have boilerplate statements for everybody submitting a fellowship. Being innovative and creative is good too. It's good to include additional resources, programs, and development activities there, too.
Where to Find... ?

General

General
That is, in a nutshell, what I want to tell you. If you want to find anything on our website, this page on nidcd.nih.gov provides a lot of information.

Launching Your Research Career

Launching Your Research Career

Launching Your Research Career

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For training opportunities, here is the page to find what's accessible to you.

Research Areas

Research Areas

Research Areas

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Also, very important, read the descriptions of our different areas. It gives you an idea of NIDCD's research priorities.
Questions and Discussion
And with that, we're done. That's my email. I try to answer emails within two days, unless I'm on travel. Let's go for a round of questions.

Question: Could you speak a little bit about the mentors for the K awards? Are there any restrictions as far as location? Do you need to be co-located with your mentor?

In an ideal world, that mentor will be in your same institution. But we are not restricting distances. Now we have different ways that people can communicate. In a K you are more senior, so obviously you know how to keep contact and work with them. It's more about you. But we are not restricting that your mentor has to be in your institution, as long as you provide a good plan for communication, with timelines and roles, and how you're going to do it.
I've seen people where they either ask the mentor to come and visit you, or sometimes they do the reverse. I have seen many ways to keep those interactions happening. Obviously, if are in LA and your mentor is in Puerto Rico, you have to think about that.
I have gotten questions about international mentoring. You are here and your mentor is going to be in Paris. The reviewers might have a tough time accepting that there's nobody in the continental US that's going to have the expertise that you need from that same person in Paris.
For a K08 and some of the K20s, how heavily does the Institute look at the institutional commitment? Some of the K awards, I think, require some kind of very strong support letter from the chair or something saying there's a position for the person whether the K is funded or not. Is that still something that is weighted heavily by the program? I know that was part of it before.
Let's talk about institutional commitment. The program doesn't require you to have a faculty position. The program requires you to have a full-time position at the time of award. It's at the discretion of the institution what kind of position they want to give you.
What it does in terms institutional commitment, is give an express commitment for your development as a clinical investigator at the institution, by providing you the space or creating some career performance track for becoming a tenure-track investigator. But that's an institutional decision. What we want to see is their commitment to you.
Letters from the chair of the department – or the deans – that is very strong. That's something the reviewer always sees as a strong commitment. But they really have to put what you're going to be getting. For example, one thing from the K99 – that in order to activate the R00, the person needs to land an offer letter saying you're going to get a tenure-track position. That letter usually comes from the chair. That is something we need in order to activate it. But letters of commitment are very, very scrutinized.

Question: Can you talk about the criteria for the review of the loan repayment program?

Of course. I love that program. You should be involved in research. You're going to have a mentor. You'll have three recommenders. It's less about the research project, and more about you as a potential investigator. It's a shift for the reviewers, because the letter has to be really strong in terms of telling us how you have overcome your weaknesses, how you have achieved so much in your research career that you deserve to have the loan repayment. It's more about you as an individual.
Also, your letter from your primary mentor should talk about your progress in the research. It's more about your commitment to research, your pathway to stay within research. They don't want to see someone where they get their loan paid, and suddenly they end up doing clinical only and forget about the research. They want to see how committed you are to research.
For a K99 awards that comes directly off an F32, is it expected that the two years of initial training funding would take place at your F32 institution?
If you are submitting a K99 from an institution where you are, that's your applicant institution. That will depend on what is the benefit to you to leave the F32 and move into another institution. It all depends. It's a case-by-case scenario there. It might be possible.
The thing is, for the K99 you cannot have more than four years of being a postdoc, so you need to be mindful of that. And sometimes you have to justify why you're staying at the same institution to make it clear what the benefit for you is.

Question: For some of the K awards, you mentioned a requirement as having a clinical or health doctorate, so I wanted to ask what counts as a clinical doctorate. Does that mean clinical certification?

No, it has to be clinical doctorate like an MD or PsyD. There might be a consideration for people who have PhDs and they have a certification and they are somehow certified to perform some clinical duties. That is open, but you have to justify it. Check with me.
I'll give you an example. When I was in NCCIH, there are so many doctorates in Chinese medicine, in chiropractic or osteopathic medicine. So we have to make sure that what you have qualifies you.

Question: Can you speak to progress reports a little bit and what you look for in a good one?

In a progress report, you first have to set up the framework. This is what I proposed. This is what I did. And this is what I'm going to do moving forward.
Sometimes I get progress reports that don't elaborate on what was achieved. Sometimes I get some that they have problems with the Aim 1, and they are stuck. And they say they are facing challenges – but they don't elaborate on what kind of challenges, because it might end up that maybe the project needs to be changed or something.
Providing detailed descriptions during the first year that you got an award – sometimes people are afraid because the first year is about setting up, calibrating, buying equipment. But we need to know that, so we can certify that you made progress. That is progress. You need to buy equipment or calibrate it, or getting some model system in place. We need to learn about that.
Sometimes people just include, "These are the aims. I completed Aim 1. I'm working on Aim 2." But I don't get what they obtained there. Show me your results. Show me how your hypothesis has been validated through the process. A good progress report would tell you that. And you can tell by the level of detail how much time the person invested.
If you are submitting a progress report after two years, guess what. We expect that you probably have submitted at least a manuscript. If it's two years and you don't have a manuscript in progress – when are you going to publish? We're expecting you to publish. At least to submit it for publication. Talking about progress reports, now we have the NIH public access. So for your publications, when you have your PMCIDs processed, we need to check on that.
In terms of the K awards and the fellowships – it's not only your research progress. Tell us about your progress in career development. Sometimes people don't even provide that and the only thing that is in career development is "completed the institutional training of responsible conduct of research." That's it.
But we are accountable to demonstrate the investment that we're making is worth it. So provide good, detailed information. There are some really good ones where people are facing challenges, and they are working with the mentors to resolve them, and it's very nice to read. And it's kind of a reality check for them too. They do a really good job. We know that not everything is going to be roses. This is science. It might not work. But we need to know.
One more thing. Most of the fellowships require evaluation by your mentor. I have been very pleased, the mentors are doing such good work. Sometimes the mentor does a better job telling the progress made by the student than the fellow does. Because the fellow was so brief, and I was thinking, maybe this person is jealous of anyone knowing about the science. I don't know. But then the mentor is just like, "blah blah blah blah blah" – and it's perfect. For those that are mentors, thank you.
Further Reading: Online Resources of Interest
American Association for the Advancement of Science. (2014). Individual Development Plan (myIDP). Science Careers. (Available from the Science website at sciencecareers.org).
American Association for the Advancement of Science. (2014). Individual Development Plan (myIDP). Science Careers. (Available from the Science website at sciencecareers.org). ×
National Center for Biotechnology Information. (2015). SciENcv. Science Experts Network Curriculum Vitae. (Available from the NCBI website at www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov).
National Center for Biotechnology Information. (2015). SciENcv. Science Experts Network Curriculum Vitae. (Available from the NCBI website at www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov). ×
National Institutes of Health. (2015). eRA Comons. Electronic Research Administration (eRA). (Available from the NIH website at era.nih.gov).
National Institutes of Health. (2015). eRA Comons. Electronic Research Administration (eRA). (Available from the NIH website at era.nih.gov). ×
National Institutes of Health. (2015). Division of Loan Repayment. NIH Loan Repayment Programs (LRPs). (Available from the NIH website at www.lrp.nih.gov).
National Institutes of Health. (2015). Division of Loan Repayment. NIH Loan Repayment Programs (LRPs). (Available from the NIH website at www.lrp.nih.gov). ×
National Institutes of Health. (2015). NIH RePORTER. Research Portfolio Online Reporting Tools (RePORT). (Available from the NIH website at projectreporter.nih.gov).
National Institutes of Health. (2015). NIH RePORTER. Research Portfolio Online Reporting Tools (RePORT). (Available from the NIH website at projectreporter.nih.gov). ×
National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. (2015). Descriptions of Extramural Research Areas. Funding for Research: Research Area Descriptions. (Available from the NIDCD website at www.nidcd.nih.gov).
National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. (2015). Descriptions of Extramural Research Areas. Funding for Research: Research Area Descriptions. (Available from the NIDCD website at www.nidcd.nih.gov). ×
National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. (2015). Launching Your NIDCD Research Career. Research: Training Opportunities. (Available from the NIDCD website at www.nidcd.nih.gov).
National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. (2015). Launching Your NIDCD Research Career. Research: Training Opportunities. (Available from the NIDCD website at www.nidcd.nih.gov). ×
National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. (2015). Mission and Strategic Plans. About Us: Mission and Strategic Plans. (Available from the NIDCD website at www.nidcd.nih.gov).
National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. (2015). Mission and Strategic Plans. About Us: Mission and Strategic Plans. (Available from the NIDCD website at www.nidcd.nih.gov). ×
National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. (2015). Research (Directory). (Available from the NIDCD website at www.nidcd.nih.gov).
National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. (2015). Research (Directory). (Available from the NIDCD website at www.nidcd.nih.gov). ×

Summary

Summary

Fact Sheet

Fact Sheet

Fact Sheet

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NIDCD's Intramural Program

NIDCD's Intramural Program

NIDCD's Intramural Program

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NIDCD's Extramural Research

NIDCD's Extramural Research

NIDCD's Extramural Research

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Division of Scientific Programs: Hearing and Balance

Division of Scientific Programs: Hearing and Balance

Division of Scientific Programs: Hearing and Balance

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Division of Scientific Programs: Language, Voice & Speech, Taste & Smell, Clinical Trials, Epidemiology & Stats, and Special Programs

Division of Scientific Programs: Language, Voice & Speech, Taste & Smell, Clinical Trials, Epidemiology & Stats, and Special Programs

Division of Scientific Programs: Language, Voice & Speech, Taste & Smell, Clinical Trials, Epidemiology & Stats, and Special Programs

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Research-Training Mission

Research-Training Mission

Research-Training Mission

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Training & Career Development Mechanisms

Training & Career Development Mechanisms

Training & Career Development Mechanisms

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Research-Training Model

Research-Training Model

Research-Training Model

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Individual Awards

Individual Awards

Individual Awards

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Fellowships

Fellowships

Fellowships

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Administrative Supplements

Administrative Supplements

Administrative Supplements

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What Will Be Evaluated?

What Will Be Evaluated?

What Will Be Evaluated?

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Mentored Career Development Awards

Mentored Career Development Awards

Mentored Career Development Awards

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Career Development Awards for Junior Investigators

Career Development Awards for Junior Investigators

Career Development Awards for Junior Investigators

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Loan Repayment Program

Loan Repayment Program

Loan Repayment Program

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What Will Be Evaluated?

What Will Be Evaluated?

What Will Be Evaluated?

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Before Applying

Before Applying

Before Applying

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Roles at NIDCD

Roles at NIDCD

Roles at NIDCD

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Grantsmanship Tips: Research Project

Grantsmanship Tips: Research Project

Grantsmanship Tips: Research Project

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Grantsmanship Tips: Career Development

Grantsmanship Tips: Career Development

Grantsmanship Tips: Career Development

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General

General

Launching Your Research Career

Launching Your Research Career

Launching Your Research Career

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Research Areas

Research Areas

Research Areas

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