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Since 2014 is winding down, a year-end newsletter seemed apropos. Congratulations on another year in research! Given funding lines lately, doubtless everyone will be putting in proposals in 2015, so, along those lines, here are a few things to pay attention to as 2015 rolls out.

First, in case you missed it….NIH delayed the requirement to use the new biosketch format until May 2015. It was slated for January 2015. This extension did not satisfy the many critics of this change, however, who posted that their objection was not to the deadline but the specifics of the new format. You can read their comments—or comment yourself–here. So far, their complaints have not been heeded and the new format is still in effect for Spring 2015.

I want to end the year emphasizing two specific things—new year’s resolutions of a sort. The first is, when you decide to apply for funding, to simply set an earlier deadline for yourself to produce a rough draft, and stick to it. By earlier I mean more in advance of the deadline. Much of the time and ways in which proposals go wrong are related to being rushed—in the writing, in the organization, and in the execution. It sounds simplistic, but starting earlier is a vastly overlooked means of improving proposal quality. For example, force yourself to have a full rough draft of your proposal at least three weeks before the deadline. Doing this gives you time to run your draft and ideas by someone else who might catch mistakes and to get some necessary distance on what you have on the page. IF you have trouble with deadlines, ask someone else to read it and promise them you will get it to them 3 weeks before the deadline so they are expecting it. This will help hold you accountable for the date. This resolution will not fix some issues but you will be amazed at how powerful a tool more time is in raising the quality of a proposal. Easier said than done, I know…behavior change may be the most elusive science of all. But this one has major rewards, I guarantee it!

The second  resolution I urge you to consider is to apply for two mechanisms you have never applied for before. Some people are good about this and regularly investigate and find new proposal mechanims, and others rely on the same mechanisms they have always applied to. Mechanisms change and are reinvented regularly, and it’s hard to stay on top of what is out there, but even an hour a week of browsing through funding mechanisms can be very rewarding. One hour! I have almost never spent an hour looking at proposal mechanisms and not turned up something interesting one of my clients could apply for that he or she didn’t know about. University funding/development offices just don’t have time to do the customized searches for every investigator under their umbrellas. Sometimes it seems overwhelming to put in for new mechanisms because it’s harder to repackage other proposals. But if you have proposal text that is well written and organized, it’s not that time consuming (often) to tweak it so it can fit into other mechanisms. Especially if you start early enough.

If you are feeling intimidated by new funding mechanisms, check out this page I recently stumbled on on NIAID’s website. It has very helpful samples of successful proposals from numerous mechanisms (some I had never heard of), as well as samples of data-sharing plans, co-PI plans, mentoring plans, and other pieces of proposal text that are relavant to a wide variety of mechanisms.

I have no idea why other NIH institutes don’t have similar pages (of if they do, I’ve never found them) but this one had lots of good sample text.

Last but not least….happy new year from C3, and may 2015 bring new opportunities and many breakthroughs.

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