Northwestern University Grant Writing Coaching Group

//Northwestern University Grant Writing Coaching Group
Northwestern University Grant Writing Coaching Group2018-10-05T18:16:46-04:00

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

 

Rick McGee Coaching with Group

Current Locations:
Northwestern University (NU)
Morehouse School of Medicine (SETH)
SACNAS

Program Directors

NRMN NU @ NU
Rick McGee, PhD
Questions? r-mcgee@northwestern.edu

NRMN NU @ MSM
Jeff Engler, PhD
Questions? rroc@nrmnet.net

NRMN NU @ SACNAS
Rick McGee, PhD
Questions?
r-mcgee@northwestern.edu



Click here to redirect to R01 Resubmission Coaching and Consultations

Overview

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:

NRMN NU @ NU
Up to 20 individuals;
broken into subgroups after kickoff

NRMN NU @ MSM
Up to 40 individuals;
broken into subgroups after kickoff

NRMN NU @ SACNAS
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. 

Competencies Gained

Mentees will develop their skills across the following areas:

  • Writing approaches from the perspective of rhetorical patterns, and a deconstructed view of how to approach writing for multiple levels and types of reviewers at the same time.
  • For individuals writing Career Development Awards (such as F32, K99/R00, K01, K08, K23, etc.) insights and skills for constructing and writing the other parts of the proposal such as descriptions of prior research, career development plans and mentoring teams.
  • Depending on the nature of the research being proposed and the make-up of the group, review of the Research Plan may also take place.
  • Additionally, if it is determined that there would be benefit to identifying scientific content experts to assist with design or writing of detailed science, efforts will be made to identify such individuals using the resource of the NRMN PDC.
  • The ideal outcome is the mentees’ NIH grant submission at the end of the program or soon thereafter. Based on past experience, it is not uncommon to get into a group and discover that some are not as ready as they envisioned due to unclear research designs, insufficient preliminary data, and/or a need to complete current work to get publications to demonstrate productivity. In these cases, a person may pull back from continued active writing for a period of time, with the option to rejoin the current or a future group.

Coaches-in-training will gain the following through successful completion of the program:

  • New approaches to writing highly effective NIH-style research proposals with the novel approach that displays the typical rhetorical writing patterns that are common to many NIH-style proposals and particularly effective for convey what is being proposed and why.
  • The ability to teach grant writing to groups of individuals through an ongoing coaching process over several months as proposals are written
  • New skills at using oral feedback to guide proposal development to complement more typical written feedback
  • New skills at facilitating a group, particularly in balancing ‘practice’ as postdocs and faculty given feedback to each other with ‘expert’ advice and feedback
  • Coach colleagues to draw on for advice and satisfaction of providing an invaluable service to young scientists
  • Eligibility to serve as coach for future program cohorts

Eligibility Requirements

Note: Participants may not be enrolled in more than one concurrent NRMN Grant Writing Coaching Group.

Mentees:

Grant Writing Experience Requirements – moderate level of grant writing experience

Experience/level* – Postdoctoral fellows & Junior faculty who are:

  • Ready to write at program start and planning to submit a proposal with a 4-8 month submission window and
  • Preparing new or resubmission of a NIH F32, K- or R-series proposal

U.S. Citizenship or permanent residency

Preferred Qualities

Any grant writing process must start first with a clear understanding of the components and style of typical proposals. For example, one can be very accomplished in writing NIH-style proposals and have no idea where to start for National Science Foundation proposals! Thus, the process led by Dr. McGee is framed around NIH-style proposals. It can be adapted easily to other agencies if the format is similar, but it is not universal. To work well, those involved must:

  • Be actively involved with writing a proposal with a 4-8 month submission window – it can be a new or previously submitted proposal being revised
  • Be from an institution which can be realistically seen by reviewers as having sufficient resources (technical, scientific, administrative, etc.) to support NIH-level research, or a strong collaboration with one or more scientists at such an institution
  • Have a sufficient record of prior research training and publications to deliver a convincing argument that they are ready to lead the research proposed
  • Have sufficient professional time to write the proposal and conduct the research if it is funded
  • Be willing to commit the time and engage in a writing process with weekly or bi-weekly virtual meetings to go over progress made and provide feedback to other group members
  • Have sufficiently well-developed research ideas that it is realistic to be initiating a proposal

*Due to NIH restrictions on providing funding and resources to employees or contractors of the NIH Intramural Program through extramural funds, postdoctoral fellows currently working at NIH are not eligible to participate in NRMN Grant Writing Coaching Groups.

Coaches:

Experience/level Senior faculty with:

  • Success writing several NIH-style proposals of one or more variety that were funded – training and/or research (note – a goal is to expand to NSF proposals in the future but currently focused on NIH-style)
  • Some experience giving feedback and guidance to others writing proposals
  • Good familiarity with the NIH review process – serving on review panels highly desirable
  • Skills at facilitating groups, such as managing different personalities or approaches by group members
  • A desire to learn and apply the unique approach to grantwriting developed at NU, which emphasizes rhetorical patterns and cognitive goals of effective proposals, and using a group-based feedback method to developing skills of grantwriting in postdocs and junior faculty
  • Sufficient time to commit to working with a group of 4-6 individuals over 2-4 months, starting from a 2-day immersion followed by weekly or bi-weekly virtual coaching sessions of ~2 hours

Desirable but Not Essential Experiences, Skills and Interests

  • Experience mentoring or coaching young scientists from diverse backgrounds
  • Institutional responsibilities related to guiding development of young scientists
  • Serving on Peer Review panels for research or training proposals
  • The ability to facilitate and draw out input from others, not just provide individual feedback (this is a learnable skill)

 

Locations and Type of Sessions

This program model is currently only offered through SACNAS

In-person sessions at Northwestern University, Morehouse School of Medicine, or SACNAS 2018 in San Antonio, Texas, plus online sessions

After the first in-person group meeting, virtual meetings of the group will take place weekly or bi-weekly for 90-120 minutes using distance technology such as Adobe Connect. Review of writing will be the same as at the first meeting, keeping focused on the Specific Aims page until it is highly refined, then going on to Significance and Innovation. For individuals writing Career Development Awards (such as F32, K99/R00, K01, K08, K23, etc.) time is devoted to other parts of the proposal such as descriptions of prior research, career development plans and mentoring teams. Depending on the nature of the research being proposed and the make-up of the group, review of the Research Plan may also take place. Additionally, if it is determined that there would be benefit to identifying scientific content experts to assist with design or writing of detailed science, efforts will be made to identify such individuals using the resource of the NRMN PDC.

SACNAS NU Kickoff:

WHEN: Wednesday, October 10 from 9:00 AM – 3:00 PM
WHERE: 2018 SACNAS Conference, San Antonio, TX
*This event is included in the SACNAS pre-conference workshop offerings during the 2018 SACNAS conference in San Antonio, TX.

NRMN NU Schedule

1 – 2 day in-person kick-off; weekly or bi-weekly small group online session scheduled on group need basis (online sessions are 90 -120 minutes)

For the NRMN version of this activity, individuals selected will come together for an initial 2-day meeting. At that meeting, there will be a workshop on the unique approach to writing from the perspective of rhetorical patterns and deconstructing how to approach writing for multiple levels and types of reviewers at the same time. After that, specially-trained Coaches will lead the reading, reviewing and providing feedback on the Specific Aims page of each participant.

This takes place in groups of 4-6 individuals working on similar types of proposals with 30-60 minutes being devoted to each person. This real-time review of sections of proposal early in development has shown to be a powerful way to provide feedback with real-time revision with close attention to the logic for revisions. Coaches lead and moderate these discussions but invariably other participants quickly provide greater insights than any one person can provide. Input is provided on writing style, content choices and very often research questions being asked and approaches being proposed. Throughout this in-person meeting, many basic questions about grant writing and NIH grants and review arise and are clarified. Depending on timing, individuals may elect to make revisions while still at the meeting to come back for additional feedback. During the course of the meeting, Coaches will meet individually with each person as well to review their Biographical Sketch and discuss any other professional development and mentoring needs.

SACNAS NU Kickoff:

WHEN: Wednesday, October 10 from 9:00 AM – 3:00 PM
WHERE: 2018 SACNAS Conference, San Antonio, TX
*This event is included in the SACNAS pre-conference workshop offerings during the 2018 SACNAS conference in San Antonio, TX.

Application Process

This program model is currently only offered through SACNAS

Applicants will be notified of their status at least 3 weeks prior to the in-person kickoff.

Application links appear below when open.

When an application cycle opens, candidates should follow the steps below.

  • Create an online profile at NRMNet.net by clicking here. Applicants who already have a profile can proceed to the coaching group application below.
    • You will be prompted to create a password and answer a set of basic questions to create your profile.
    • When asked, “from which organization did you hear about NRMN?” please select “NRMN PDC – Professional Development Core” from the drop-down menu.
    • Once you’ve completed your registration, you will see a notification that your NRMN Profile has been updated. You may then move on to Step 2.

NRMN NU @ NU

Coaches – currently closed

Mentees – currently closed

NRMN NU @ MSM

Coaches – Currently closed

Mentees – Currently closed

NRMN NU @ SACNAS – Due September 10 @ Midnight CST

Coaches – Currently closed

Mentees – Apply here

For more information regarding the 2018 SACNAS Conference and NRMN’s involvement, please click HERE.