Postdoctoral Fellows & Rising Faculty Investigators
Are you an early-stage investigator seeking to develop a competitive NIH grant funding proposal for a research project and/or research career development award in the biomedical, behavioral, clinical and social sciences? Join a cohort of peers to participate in intensive coaching from NRMN faculty coaches in one of four program models offered throughout the country.
Experienced Faculty Investigators
Are you interested in assisting with one of NRMN’s grant writing coaching group models and the mission of NRMN? Join one of the upcoming groups as a “grantsmanship coach-in-training.” Or participate on an ad hoc basis as a “scientific or methodology advisor.” These opportunities are for mid- to late-career researchers with a track record of NIH funding and a commitment to the career advancement of investigators from diverse backgrounds.
The National Institutes of Health-funded National Research Mentoring Network (NRMN) was created to address the unmet need for greater diversity in the biomedical and bio-behavioral research workforce.
One core activity within NRMN is focused on creating – and disseminating nationally – transformative, high impact, professional development programs that foster the persistence and advancement of research trainees and early-career investigators from diverse backgrounds who are pursuing biomedical, behavioral, clinical, and social science research careers.
To begin, NRMN is offering a series of four intensive coaching programs to support investigators from diverse backgrounds who are at a later training stage, specifically postdoctoral fellows and junior faculty. These programs are designed to enhance trainees’ career development, preparing them to meet each program’s ultimate goal: the submission of strong research and research career development proposals for funding in the biomedical or bio-behavioral sciences. Each program differs somewhat in its training approach, duration, and intended audience, but all recognize the following:
- Research proposals are a genre of writing whose mastery is essential for the success of independent researchers. Some research trainees and junior faculty have the good fortune of being mentored by established scientists who engage them in the iterative development of proposals and expose them to the criteria by which proposals are judged, with ample opportunities for practice and feedback; others do not have access to such mentors. In reality, there is huge variability in such mentorship. Thus, many scientists are forced to hone their proposal writing skills by trial and error during their first years on the faculty.
- Proposal writing is a complex skill but one that can be consciously taught and mastered. Researchers must not only identify research questions that peer reviewers and funders think are worth studying, but also craft an appropriate study design; obtain preliminary data to establish feasibility; and flawlessly present their ideas by using a writing style and document design that reviewers expect to see and that compels them to view the proposal favorably.
- Brief exposure to proposal writing (e.g. workshops) is insufficient for developing the skills needed for funding success. Although workshops and short trainings in proposal writing abound (and many present valuable information), our experience shows that a more sustained coaching process is needed for weeks to months as research ideas evolve and writing is refined.
- Supplemental professional development is beneficial for many investigators. During the proposal development process, many postdoctoral fellows and junior faculty desire opportunities to increase their skills in pre-requisite areas. These areas might include designing a research project, writing in the sciences, identifying suitable funding agencies, and planning a longer-term research agenda (beyond the immediate project) to advance their careers.
What is an NRMN Grant Writing Coaching Group? How is it different from a workshop?
An NRMN Grant Writing Coaching Group is an intensive grant writing program for postdoctoral fellows and junior faculty to write NIH-style proposals. There are four models. While each model is different, they all involve very direct, specific feedback on multiple iterations of a proposal over the 3-4 months it takes to write. Feedback is provided as each part of the proposal is being written, starting from an extended period of time crafting the Specific Aims page and progressing through each section of the proposal. Participants can work on most types of NIH proposals (e.g. F32, K99/R00, diversity supplements, other K- and R- mechanisms). Feedback during the Coaching Group is provided by carefully selected and trained senior faculty members Coaches as well as peers in the writing group. Participants are expected to be writing their proposals so that sections can be reviewed on a weekly or bi-weekly basis. Coaching Groups may provide some guidance on the scientific basis of the proposals, but they are ideally designed to complement input and feedback from colleagues and mentors working in the respective field.
Grant writing “workshops” typically are one-day events where participants are one of several people in the audience listening. Minimal to no feedback is given on individual proposals and participants are left to apply the workshop material to their proposals by themselves. Much of what is provided in grant writing workshops is also provided during the Grant Writing Groups in addition to ongoing feedback.
NRMN believes that grant writing can be better and more efficiently taught by successful researchers rather than self-taught or “picked up” along the way. After being trained on the models as coaches, many senior faculty members have commented, “I wish I would have had this training 15 years ago, I had to learn it on my own!”.