The wrap-up for the third cohort of the National Research Mentoring Network Proposal Preparation Program (NRMN-P3) took place at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, Minnesota on Friday, November 18, 2016. Coaches and mentees gathered to critique and discuss grant proposals, as well as present and learn about effective grant writing techniques.
NRMN-P3 is a five-month, writing-intensive, small-group workshop experience designed to refine the proposal writing skills of early-stage investigators (junior faculty or transitioning postdocs). The program is ideal for researchers who are preparing their first major NIH proposal or who have submitted a previous NIH proposal but not been funded. Mentees develop drafts of core sections of their own proposals, then come together as a cohort every other week (seven two-hour virtual meetings) to receive critical feedback on their work-in-progress from skilled coaches (senior investigators) who understand study section reviewers’ expectations.
A mock study section was led by Dr. Anne Marie Weber-Main, director of NRMN-P3. The mock study section appointed experienced senior-level external reviewers to critically read and review mentees’ proposals, prepare a written review using standard NIH templates, and then deliver the oral critique via videoconference.
In the afternoon, coaches gave the following presentations to bring attention to professional development topics related to grant writing: “Scientific Premise, Rigor, and Reproducibility,” Dr. Loren Wold (Ohio State University); “Human Subjects,” Dr. Moon Chen (University of California, Davis); “Vertebrate Animals, Resource Sharing Plan, Authentication of Key Biological and/or Chemical Resources,” Dr. Suzie Chen (Rutgers University); “Facilities and other Resources, Equipment,” Dr. Cara Schengrund (Penn State University); “Project Summary/Abstract, Project Narrative,” Dr. Anne Marie Weber-Main ().
Finally, mentees and coaches exchanged final program feedback. Overall, mentees concluded that the program was extensively helpful in showing them how to “sell” their proposal, and even suggested that the program be mandatory or at least highly encouraged among junior faculty and transitioning postdoc grant writers. One mentee said that her mentorship through the program brought up questions in her research that were not considered before, and assisted in making her a generally more well-rounded critical thinker. Another stated that receiving input from highly responsive mentors in various fields was a major plus.
Coaches emphasized the importance of accepting criticism and not taking comments personally; they wanted the mentees to know that persistence is key and that making proposals easy—or even fun—to follow is a key ingredient to grant writing. One coach expressed that he wishes he would have had NRMN coaching groups as a resource for his own grant submission process!
The next coaching group, Cohort 4, kicked off December 5 and 6 at the University of Minnesota. For more information on the programs, refer to the NRMN Web page.