Skip to main content

Northwestern University Grant Writing Coaching Group

The National Institute of Health (NIH)-funded National Research Mentoring Network (NRMN) was created to address the unmet need for greater diversity in the biomedical and bio-behavioral research workforce.  Grant Writing Coaching Groups for Postdocs and Junior Faculty Actively Writing

NIH-style Proposals is one of four professional development training programs that is committed to increasing the number of people from diverse backgrounds successfully obtaining NIH grants.

This program model is currently only offered through SACNAS

Rationale & Background

One of the last and most complicated skills a young scientist must develop is the ability to come up with and effectively present proposals to obtain funding for their research. It is so complicated because it is not just about effective writing but rather the combination of: identifying research questions that peer reviewers and funders think are worth studying; crafting an appropriate research design; obtaining preliminary data to establish feasibility; and flawless written presentation in a style that reviewers expect to see and compels them to view it favorably. Ideally, mentors provide the guidance to develop these skills, but too often they lack the time, interest or expertise to actually teach the grant writing process. Workshops and short trainings abound, and many present valuable information, but in our experience, a more sustained coaching process is needed for weeks to months as research ideas evolve and writing is refined. This approach is what has been developed by Dr. Rick McGee over the course of his work at the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine, the NIH intramural program, and most recently NU.

Pattern-based Group Process

Rather than approaching grant writing as ‘just do it’, we have developed a novel approach that displays the typical writing or rhetorical patterns that are common to many NIH-style proposals, and that are particularly effective for conveying what is being proposed and why.  Knowing and writing to this framework has shown to be exceedingly helpful for early stage scientists. Additionally, we have found that a group process over 2-3 months is far more effective for teaching and learning these skills than even individual coaching or mentoring by a single expert. In addition to getting real-time feedback from multiple perspectives, participants master writing skills more effectively and the camaraderie that develops among group members mitigates the isolation and sense of insurmountable barriers that early stage scientists can experience.

The process is modeled after the in-person grant writers groups that Dr. McGee leads at NU which have been successfully modified for combined in-person and virtual meetings in collaboration with the AAMC Minority Faculty Career Development Workshops.

Size of Instructor Cohort: 1 NRMN faculty; 2-3 coaches in training

Size of Cohort:

Up to 20 individuals;
broken into subgroups after kickoff

Up to 40 individuals;
broken into subgroups after kickoff

Up to 15 individuals;
broken into subgroups after kickoff

Total Program Duration:
2-4 months depending on the needs of the subgroups

Note: Upon completion of the program, trainees will receive a 6-month, 12-month, and 18-month assessment to complete. These assessments will help improve NRMN and other programs in the future. 

Leave a Reply

The owner of this website has made a commitment to accessibility and inclusion, please report any problems that you encounter using the contact form on this website. This site uses the WP ADA Compliance Check plugin to enhance accessibility.