NINDS's Building Up the Nerve

Episode 2: The Grant Cycle

November 01, 2019 NINDS Season 1 Episode 2
NINDS's Building Up the Nerve
Episode 2: The Grant Cycle
Chapters
00:00:00
Intro
00:01:11
Introductions
00:04:26
Questions
00:36:00
Advice
00:37:27
Outro
NINDS's Building Up the Nerve
Episode 2: The Grant Cycle
Nov 01, 2019 Season 1 Episode 2
NINDS

Get an overview of the entire grant cycle from Acting Deputy Director of Extramural Activities, Dr. Dave Owens, and Program Directors Drs. Vicky Whittemore and Ned Talley.

Building Up the Nerve is a podcast from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke for neuroscience trainees that takes you through the life cycle of a grant from idea to award at NINDS with the people who make it happen. We know that applying for NIH funding can be daunting, but we’re here to help—it’s our job!

Related Resources:
https://projectreporter.nih.gov/reporter_matchmaker.cfm?source=RPCO&new=1

Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Get an overview of the entire grant cycle from Acting Deputy Director of Extramural Activities, Dr. Dave Owens, and Program Directors Drs. Vicky Whittemore and Ned Talley.

Building Up the Nerve is a podcast from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke for neuroscience trainees that takes you through the life cycle of a grant from idea to award at NINDS with the people who make it happen. We know that applying for NIH funding can be daunting, but we’re here to help—it’s our job!

Related Resources:
https://projectreporter.nih.gov/reporter_matchmaker.cfm?source=RPCO&new=1

Lauren Ullrich:

Welcome to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke's Building Up The Nerve, a podcast for neuroscience trainees that takes you through the life cycle of a grant from idea to award at NINDS with the people who make it happen. We know that applying for NIH funding can be daunting, but we're here to help. It's our job.

Marguerite M.:

Hello, I'm Marguerite Matthews , a health program specialist at NINDS.

Lauren Ullrich:

and I'm Lauren Ullrich, a scientific program manager at NINDS, and we're the hosts of Building Up The Nerve. Last episode, we discussed the mission of NINDS and its relationship to NIH as a whole.

Marguerite M.:

This episode we're going to present a big picture overview of the NIH grant cycle, which will be the framework for subsequent episodes of the season . As the season continues, we will do a deeper dive into each stage of the grant cycle with the staff here at NINDS who help keep the process moving. As always, I want to state the disclaimer that things covered on this podcast may only be relevant to NINDS. So if you're applying to a different NIH institute or center, be sure to check with them about their policies and procedures.

Lauren Ullrich:

Joining us are Dr. Dave Owens, acting deputy director of the Division of Extramural Activities, Dr. Vicky Whittemore, a program director in the channels, synapses and circuits cluster, and Dr. Ned Tally, a program director in the channels, synapses, and circuits cluster as well.

Dave Owens:

Okay. So I would put it this way, that the topic we're going to discuss today, the grant cycle, essentially what I do here is oversee that operation. The division of extramural activities is kind of the umbrella organization that oversees that. Now what I did before was actually I was a program director here at NINDS. So I was colleagues of Ned and Vicky . So I did those activities which they will cover. What else did you want to know?

Lauren Ullrich:

How long have you worked here?

Dave Owens:

Oh , um, I would say probably 15 years now, 10 years as a PD and program director and , uh , five years. Then in the deputy position.

Lauren Ullrich:

And a hobby?

Dave Owens:

Um, bowling.

Marguerite M.:

Something I cannot do well.

Lauren Ullrich:

And what about you, Vcky?

Vicky W:

So I'm a program director and I oversee grants primarily on epilepsy. And so within that the focus is typically or primarily on the genetic epilepsies, so basic translational and clinical research and sudden unexpected death in epilepsy. And then another hat I wear is as a program director for grants on chronic fatigue syndrome. So I've been here a little more than eight years. And prior to joining NINDS, I was working in the nonprofit sector as the chief scientific officer at the Tuberous Sclerosis Alliance and working as a consultant for CURE: Citizens United for Research Epilepsy.

Lauren Ullrich:

Hobby?

Vicky W:

I love reading, play the piano and spending time with my , my puppy dog.

Dave Owens:

No bowling?

Vicky W:

No bowling.

:

And Ned?

Ned Talley:

Yeah. So I'm Ned Tally. I'm , I'm also program director , um, in the channels, synapses and circuits cluster with Vicky . Um, my primary job is I'm working on the BRAIN Initiative, which is , um, a large program of multiple NIH institutes , um, aimed at developing new technologies to understand how neural circuits function. And I have a couple of different roles. One is that I'm a program officer for grants on optics and optogenetics, and I am also co-chair of the BRAIN Initiative coordinating team, which is responsible for managing the BRAIN Initiative. In terms of hobbies, I'd say my main hobby is trying to keep my kids out of trouble, um.

Marguerite M.:

Um , that sounds more like a job than a hobby.

Ned Talley:

Uh , different people have different passions. Um, and no, we don't bowl.

Dave Owens:

Actually I don't either. By the way.

Marguerite M.:

We've got some jokesters in NINDS.

Lauren Ullrich:

Okay. So let's get started then. Um, when we're talking grants, we have a predictable cycle that happens three times a year, although it does overlap. Um, so will one of you take us through the first step of that grant cycle?

Dave Owens:

So , um, you know, we have a series of different training mechanisms or , or programs and so maybe the first step for a young investigators to look into those various programs to see what they're interested in. Now, a good idea is they should always pursue what they are interested in as opposed to what the NIH is asking for. I think that's a , probably a higher pathway to success. Um, nonetheless, they conceive of an idea. If it's a, you know, a mentor type program, they'd probably interact with their principal investigator, the scientists that they are the mentee of . Um, they should discuss a proposal, come up with a plan, you write up the application. It's a very specific and series of instructions of how you do that. Um, and then you submit it .

Ned Talley:

Now , one thing just to jump in and, and um , make sure that people understand is you want to start by looking at the , uh , instructions for the specific program announcement that you're applying to. So for different training mechanisms, typically the evaluation is about a lot more than just the research project. It's about your capabilities as an individual, the mentoring environment , um, and your relationship with your mentor. Um, and so all of those need to be covered and emphasized and you don't want to give anything short change.

Dave Owens:

That's a great point.

Vicky W:

I was just going to jump in and say, um, one of the things that I advise people is to contact a program director to talk about their proposed application. Um, we don't typically give advice about the kind of science or the science you do, but give you advice as to how to best position your application, things to make sure you include like the training plan and different aspects of the application that will, as Ned said, will be reviewed beyond just the science that you're proposing to do.

Dave Owens:

I mean, I think a good point as I think a , there's some confusion sometimes it is just a research proposal like Ned and Vicky , you're saying that's actually, it's a training grant, the evidence of the training experience, so what's going to be gained in that sense, can be as important as the, you know, the specific research proposed.

Lauren Ullrich:

So we often tell applicants to contact the program official or the program directors as we call them at NINDS to, you know, get advice. But there's a lot of other things that the program director is doing. So will you take us through a few of the other responsibilities that program director has?

Ned Talley:

Yeah. So there are a number of different things that we're focused on, on the programmatic side and it , um, sort of comes down to different parts of the grant cycle. You know, one of the things we do is we do write specific program announcements. If there are areas of emphasis that we feel need to be bolstered. Um, so for example, for the brain initiative, we have a diversity K 99 program that's distinct from other programs at NIH. And that was something that we, you know , spent a good bit of time developing in addition , um, after a grant is , um , reviewed, it's the program director who's the main point of contact and advocate for the research that's being proposed. Um, and in some respects we are a broker of information about your project and your prospects , um, to the NIH , um, and to the rest of the NIH, you know, to the rest of NINDS and we're the ones who sort of translate what you're doing into , um, the kinds of information that are necessary for the funding decisions. So a lot happens beyond just the peer review and we're responsible for a lot of it.

Marguerite M.:

How does one find who their official is and who to talk to, especially when it comes to perhaps a certain scientific expertise?

Vicky W:

So, there are several ways. You can ask your mentor who the program director is for their NIH funded grants , um , and contact that program official. You can also go on matchmaker and identify through matchmaker, someone who is a program director for that area of research. Um , there are , I think there are other ways. If you look in the funding opportunity announcement itself, there will be a contact for possibly the training office or particular program directors who you can contact. And if they're not the right person, they'll redirect you to the person you should, you should be contacting.

Dave Owens:

Now that that would be all prior to submission. Once you've actually submitted, you will be assigned a program officer. So, in the electronic research administrator, I believe you have an account and um,

Lauren Ullrich:

ERA.

Dave Owens:

ERA. You have an account, you would go in there, there will be a program officer listed that would be, that is your program director.

Lauren Ullrich:

So then after you submit then the application moves to assignment and review. So, can one of you give us a brief overview of what happens during that process?

Ned Talley:

So when the application comes in, it goes to the center for scientific review, which is a separate NIH entity. They're responsible for making the assignments of the specific NIH Institute and they do that based on the cover letter and on the content of the science. And then also assigning it to a review panel and the center for scientific review known as CSR, they run about 60% of the NIH reviews. The remainder of the reviews are actually run by individual institutes

Dave Owens:

In that initial phase when you submit it, when it does go to CSR for, well, it goes into a place called receipt and referral, so they receive them and then refer them. You can provide a cover letter, you can actually make a recommendation of where , what institute you would want to be assigned to and what study section you would want to be assigned to. So you can go in to CSR website and go into individual institutes' websites to see what these panels are. Now in some cases there is no option and I'm going to use an example of what is called an RFA and if we release an RFA, its a a one time request for applications where they actually put a review panel together for that. So there really is no option. You would be reviewed in that panel. Now for other programs, some of the training programs, there could be one or more panels and if someone looked at that and they said, you know, based on the composition, I actually think this panel would be in the best position to review my application. You can make that request in the cover letter. It's a request, you know, it's not necessarily a demand, but I think they're actually very responsive to these requests, CSR.

Ned Talley:

So your grant gets assigned to a review panel. Otherwise known as a study section and it gets read and critiqued by at least three reviewers and they actually provide written critiques based on what they read. And then for approximately half of the applications that are deemed to be in the top tier , um, the applications are actually discussed by the panel and the scientific review officer is responsible for writing a summary of paragraph of that discussion. So regardless of how your grant scores , you're going to get these written critiques and if your grant scores in the top half, you'll also get a summary of the discussion.

Vicky W:

So the program director's role at that point is to either attend in person or by phone and listen to the review of your application. And we try to do that as much as possible because what that does then is it really helps us to better inform you about the written summary statement that you will receive. We can help you to identify the areas in the summary statement that seemed to be the biggest sticking points or where there was discussion. Um , one of the things we find with the summary statements is that they're written prior to review by the three reviewers. And they sometimes do sometimes don't go back and make revisions to the summary statements even though they're asked to do that after review, if they have changed their mind or want to make changes. But listening for us to listen to the review, it really helps us to better give you better advice if you're going to need to revise and resubmit your application.

Ned Talley:

And after the discussion, the panel actually votes on the score. And then based on the historical scoring of that panel, your grant will receive a percentile, um, indicating how it falls relative to other grants that have been reviewed by that panel. And then the Institute has policies based on percentile scoring about where the funding lines are drawn. A lot of times it's determined by the budget and typically what happens is the Institute will have a range where everything gets funded and then arrange where nothing gets funded. And then a range where, you know, it requires further assessment by program staff. And that's um , often where people fall. And , um, so it's a good idea to um, understand where your score is and what kinds of things , um, NIH might need to know from you to help in making this decision.

Marguerite M.:

So after a grant has been submitted and reviewed, it will go to pre council program review and recommendation. I don't think any of our listeners know what that actually means. Can one of you explain that process to us?

Vicky W:

As Ned pointed out, typically for the training grounds, there's a zone of grants that scored well that are definitely going to be funded. There is a zone of grants that scored not so well but will definitely not be funded. And the important zone is the zone in the middle, which are the grants that require additional discussion. And quite often, program directors will reach out to the grantees whose grants fall into that zone and request additional information from you, ask you to respond to some of the concerns or weaknesses that were raised in the summary statement and give you the opportunity to respond and provide that additional information so that then, at the pre-council meeting, when your grant comes up for review, your program director can then better represent your grant advocate on behalf of you regarding funding or whether the Institute should consider funding or not funding your application.

Lauren Ullrich:

We mentioned payline, and in terms of NINDS, we're quite largely payline driven for R0--s, but a lot of training and career mechanisms are not percentile because they're only reviewed in one study section. So can you go into how program directors make the decision--just based on the impact score, what kinds of information they take into account?

Ned Talley:

You know, often , um, the study section, you know, they, they have one shot at the review, they don't have all the information and, you know, afterwards there may be issues that aren't quite clear. And if we get more information from the applicant , um, and resolve some of the questions that the peer reviewers weren't able to resolve that can, you know, clarify things and move the application into category, that's , um, you know, we're funding is more likely. I think that , uh, those are really important considerations. You know, the fact that it's, it's sort of a two step process, the first the peer review and then we have a chance to sort of assess things in more detail.

Vicky W:

And I would add to that that often how well you respond to the request for information is critically important. So take that seriously if you're asked for a response. And for additional information because we as program directors are really interested in having that information to clarify issues raised in review.

Ned Talley:

And as long as we're talking about training mechanisms, I think it's really important for people to understand. I said this before, but I think it's worth repeating that we're often looking at a lot more than just the research project. It's , um, you know, the overall training environment and the mentoring plan. And often I find that this is an opportunity for applicants to actually improve the overall mentoring plan that they're getting because is part of the application. You're asked to describe the environment and sometimes it's really useful to get sort of a , you know, a mentoring committee for example, or get some way of incorporating feedback beyond just your advisor. Um, and, and this kind of grant application and provides you an opportunity to actually have that discussion and , and make the kinds of requests that could actually make a big impact on your career.

Marguerite M.:

All right . So after pre council , the applications will go to council. Who are on the council?

Dave Owens:

Um , so every Institute at the NIH has what is called and you know , and advisory council, these are chartered bodies that are actually, it's very official, known as a FACA committee and it's actually, there's a law that covers it. So we can't actually fund anything unless an advisory, our advisory council approves it. Um , what they provide is what's known as the second level of review. They do not re-review the application, but they kind of look at the process and what we do is make a proposal to them. We make a funding plan overall, in which we cover all the grants we wanted to fund for a council round. We meet, we have an open session where we may discuss policy issues or whatnot , but then we have a closed session where they will review our funding plan and then they can approve it or not. Now the director of the institute is actually the final pathway of approval. The director is the one who actually approves funding council is the council is advisory to the director. Now the only, the , the one thing about council, I would say they do have the ability, if they actually voted that we shouldn't fund something, we are bound by that. But usually they just simply make recommendations to the director of the institute that the director will take that under consideration, and then the final funding plan is approved by them.

Ned Talley:

Yeah. And the , um, you know, just like the composition of the NIH study sections, the composition of the Institute councils are available on the web. And so for NINDS, if you just Google and NINDS council , it'll come up and, and you can see who the roster is. It's typically eminent scientists along with people from industry and from advocacy organizations. U m, focused on various neurological diseases.

Dave Owens:

And let me add to that. So when I brought up it's a FACA committee, there actually is a required composition that council has to be a part of. So for example, we have to have a third of them being , um, basic, it's not basic researchers but research scientists and like a third half to be public members. So they can be from advocacy, they can be from the professions of law , uh , other professions, but it's very prescribed what the council has to be. And in fact, the Department of Health and Human Services have to approve our council rosters as we call them or slates.

Lauren Ullrich:

And the one exception to council is fellowships, right? Those do not go to council. They do not. The counsel--they do not go to the meeting, but council i s made aware of these, the funding plans. Right.

Ned Talley:

And in practice, you know , um, I think the, the funding process for fellowships is not a lot different from the research project grants. Um, you know, legally they don't go, they don't actually get reviewed by council , but , um, otherwise all of the, you know, all of the preparation that we do and the recommendations that we make to the institute director , um, wind up being pretty similar.

Marguerite M.:

So what happens if an application is not approved for funding? Can they resubmit or what should happen?

Ned Talley:

Well, first you need to recognize that you're in really good company. [laughter] So, you know , typically it's around 20% of applications that get funded. And you're talking about 20%; the other 80% are from people who are outstanding. So it's not a situation where a rejection in this case doesn't mean that your career is off to the wrong track. All it means is you didn't hit the goal of this time. I think you really need to understand that , um, that grant writing is just part of the process. Um, you need to step back and, and chill out and say, you know, what, what sorts of things can I do to , to hit it into the goal of the next time. I think that's where a program staff are here to help you understand and interpret the feedback that you get from the critiques. And it's really critical and it's really valuable to talk to program directors at that point in the process.

Vicky W:

And whether or not you can resubmit really depends on where you're at in your stage of your career. And so it's important to look at the funding announcements . So for example, the NINDS F32, you can submit prior to joining a lab or during the first year. But if you are now beyond that point, you won't be able to resubmit that grant if it's not funded the first time around. So it's really important to understand those eligibility criteria as well.

Dave Owens:

But you would be willing, you'd be , um, able to probably submit to a different type of program. But I mean, I would add also then that in terms of the critiques or the summary statement as it's called, take that very seriously. So it's, it's usually not completely idiosyncratic. So if there were issues brought up there and even if you change the program and you're applying to a different type of training grant, many of those things would stay. So you know, you don't--just because it's a new program and maybe even a new study section, some of the issues, the concerns tend to be very universal. So you want to take the summary statement and the critiques that are ther very seriously, you want to address those issues. I mean that's the first step. If , if I was not funded I would, you know, read that very, very carefully. Maybe even have a discussion with first year, your mentor, then the NIH staff and, and you know, formulate a plan of what you would do. Cause sometimes there's things that you would need to do some major changes and some are not so much, say it's a collection of smaller issues. So that's the key step is to kind of reassess and think about the path forward. And I would agree with Ned in the sense that you know, you're in good company when you don't get funded. But I think our analysis we've done over many types of programs, if you stay with it, there's a very good likelihood that you will succeed.

Lauren Ullrich:

That's a great message.

Dave Owens:

Yeah.

Lauren Ullrich:

So let's say you do succeed, you get, you're getting your funding , um, what happens during the issuance of the grant award?

Vicky W:

So the first thing is that you will be asked for additional information, what's called JIT or just in time information. And typically what that is, is you're asked for to , to report if you have any other support, meaning are you getting funding support from any other organization such that there would be overlap with the NIH funding as well as , um, if you have, you're using animal studies, do you have the appropriate IACUC approvals to do those studies, or for clinical studies, do you have the appropriate IRB approvals? So all of those kinds of things, if they're not, haven't been provided in the application, you'll have to submit after the grant has been, it's been determined that the grant will be funded. Once the award's issued , then you'll receive a notice of award that will indicate the start date in the terms of of your application or of your grant. And it's important to read that carefully because some mechanisms have specific terms and things that you need to be aware of as you carry out your research. There may be specific budget restrictions, so again, for example, if you are doing a clinical study, they may decide to issue the notice of award prior to you having IRB approval, but there will then be a restriction that you're not allowed to do any human subjects studies until you receive that IRB approval.

Marguerite M.:

And what NINDS staff person should they be talking to about the actual award?

Dave Owens:

The program officer is one. Now there's actually a branch in NINDS and every NIH Institute that actually do the physical issuing of the awards. So that's the grants management branch. And so there'll be also in addition to the program director, there'll be the grants management specialist who's assigned to a application and they will know about some of the administrative requirements that are necessary to move the reward forward. Frankly, the program officer knows many of those as well. So it's, you know, it's a collaboration to get those out. So the individual could speak to either one of them.

Ned Talley:

And , um, typically the way it works is that the grants specialist actually will be corresponding with the organizational signing official in the grants office at your institution. So it turns out that, you know, the grants are submitted by the institution and , um, so a lot of that correspondence , uh , regarding official award information actually has to go through your grants office. So, you know, I think that it's something where you're going to want to, want to make sure that the appropriate individuals are contacted , um, within your institution. But typically that's not much of a problem because you know, the staff here actually already know who the appropriate , um, individuals are.

Lauren Ullrich:

So taking a little bit of a step back. So NINDS funds thousands of grants every year, how do we keep track of what any individual person is doing with the money that we give them, but also overall in terms of thinking big picture, what we're funding?

Dave Owens:

The federal government works on a yearly budget, so we're given a budget per year, yet we make awards over multiple years. Let's just use a five as an example. A grant that is issued for five years from our one year budget, it moves into a phase called a non competitive phase, so you don't have to be reviewed again, you are reviewed by your program officer for progress, but you know, once a year you submit what is called a progress report. And so that's the way for the NINDS and the program officers to monitor the progress of the individual projects. Now there's some exceptions such as , um, there's a thing called multi-year funding. We would actually pay the whole grant up front , but the individual is still required to submit those yearly progress reports. Once again, it's a way to ensure, you know, good stewardship of the taxpayers' dollars; to make sure that the progress in the project is going well. Now, the bigger question of all the grants we fund yet, we, there are automated systems. We do a great deal of analysis to keep track of everything. Um, I don't think I could go into all the details.

Lauren Ullrich:

That'll be the last episode of the podcast.

Dave Owens:

It's , it's a big enterprise, but we do monitor literally everything.

Ned Talley:

And it's important for people to understand: so if you receive an award , um, it's a grant, it's not a contract. Um, and what you're expected to do is to be working on that project in terms of the goals that are written. If you see that your project is going in a different direction and the goals are changing, typically that's not a big deal at all. However, you know, it's worthwhile for you to contact, you know, the program director. If you think that, you know, it's a really significant change just to make sure they're in the loop. Events for training that would really , um, be really important to contact. The, the program director would be, say for example, a change, a mentor. I think a you , you should consider NIH as a resource in the sense of getting, you know , feedback on changes, but also just to make sure that , um, you know, everything is , is interpreted the way that you're interpreting it.

Vicky W:

And I would add just one more thing, that is that things happen and sometimes the progress you had hoped to make over the course of the year just doesn't happen. So for example, I know I have a grantee whose animal facility had to be closed down because of an infection that swept through the whole thing in this--and so the grantee couldn't do their research because they couldn't, didn't have access to their animals. So we understand when things like that happen. And so the caution or words of advice is don't panic, but tell us what's happening and we understand when, when things like that happen.

Lauren Ullrich:

Right . And tell us early.

Vicky W:

yes.

Lauren Ullrich:

Cause we can do a lot more to help you the sooner we know, rather than trying to fix things after the fact.

Dave Owens:

And let me add onto one thing Ned said. So there is actually, you know, you, you have submitted a proposal, it's received funding. In that proposal you would lay it out, the research you're gonna conduct, there is flexibility for change in there. There is a point where theoretically it goes beyond the scope. Now this is a somewhat of a technical term to change scope. You actually have to request prior approval from the NIH. And this isn't, you know, there's cases where, Oh I was studying molecule X in axon guidance and I've got data. Now it looks like a molecule Y is more important. That is within scope. Out of scope is if I'm just going to use a radical example, it's an animal study and now you want to do human subjects research, that would be a major change in scope and you would have to get our approval to do it

Lauren Ullrich:

right. And if you're not sure, you can just reach out to the program officer--

Dave Owens:

Absolutely.

Lauren Ullrich:

--and they'll let you know.

Marguerite M.:

So for trainees, when should they start thinking about a new grant cycle? So they have an award. When should they start thinking about the next award year?

Ned Talley:

A year in advance. It takes a year to from submission to award when you factor in, you know, the writing of the grant and um, so you really need to sort of plan things out in advance.

Vicky W:

I think it also depends on your individual situation. What I'm seeing quite often as someone who has say an F32 fellowship, there may be a gap between when that grant ends and their next grant starts and their mentor picks them up on funding that they have in the lab. But again, that's a very individual thing and, and you really need to be thinking ahead in terms of how will your research be supported if you have a gap in your funding.

Dave Owens:

For a trainee, it's probably the ideal. You should always be thinking of the next grant. I mean, if you're going to become a federally sponsored researcher at each stage, you know there's a process and you, you know, if you have an F32 which is a postdoctoral fellowship and you're on the job market looking for faculty positions, you should actually be thinking about what you would write in your first research grant as an independent investigator. I don't think it's ever too soon to think about that. Um, you know, you don't have to actually initiate those things, but it's worthwhile to learn all the different steps in , in having a successful research career. And this is where, you know, talking to your NIH program officers, people who work at NIH can be quite helpful. I mean, they can tell you all their experiences and, and we are here to answer questions. That's a big part of our job and we actually like to do it. So, you know, always reach out to us.

Lauren Ullrich:

So to wrap up, I think a lot of trainees think of NIH as a monolith and we were hoping through this podcast to talk a little bit more about the idiosyncrasies of NINDS. so is there anything in particular that grantees and trainees should know about the ways in which NINDS might be different than other institutes?

Vicky W:

One thing that I can think of right away is that in NINDS, the program director will likely be a person that is sort of that topic area expert. So for example, I oversee the training awards in epilepsy in, I know talking to some of my colleagues in other institutes, there will be one person or a couple of people that will oversee all training grants. So that person may or may not have expertise in their actual area of research, even though it may be within the mission of that Institute. So I think that's one big difference between NINDS and some of the other institutes here at NIH.

Lauren Ullrich:

Right. So with a training award, you can either contact the OPEN office or the training office and then we can help shepherd you through the sort of career development aspects and the more general aspects of the application. But then for any scientific questions, we'll direct you to the program officer that holds that scientific portfolio because we know that they're the best ones to speak to the state of the science in that area. So it really is a partnership between our offices and the scientific program directors, which you're right, it is different at other institutes.

Ned Talley:

And I think it's important, you know, this is sort of implicit in some of the things we've been talking about. That the important factor here is that each Institute has its own mission and its own budget and it's own mandate from Congress. And so every Institute, their priorities are slightly different and their processes are slightly different. And um , because of that, you want to reach out to the appropriate NIH Institute for your research topic. And often there may be more than one potential Institute and it would be a good idea for you to reach out to each one of them because it's possible that you know, one Institute actually might put a much higher priority on what you're thinking of studying.

Marguerite M.:

All right , well thank you all for sharing your wisdom today. Um , will each of you please give one last piece of advice for our trainees? We'll start with you, Dave.

Dave Owens:

As I said, never give up. [laughter].

Vicky W:

I would say contact your program director, program officer. We're here to help and as Dave said, we like to do it. S o contact us.

Ned Talley:

And I would say people go into research , um, because they love it and I think that you want to make sure that that's part of the balance. Um, so that, you know, through thick and thin you know that this is something you really want to do. Um, and I think that if you've got that in you, then , um, you're gonna wind up being successful.

Marguerite M.:

Lauren, what's your advice?

Lauren Ullrich:

I think just really thinking about how long the process takes. We referenced this earlier, so part of it is writing the application, which always seems to take at least twice as long as you think it will. But then we just talked about all the different steps that have to happen between when you hit submit and when that actual award goes out the door. And you're lucky if it's six months. I think the average from submission to award is nine months. That's a long time. So build that into your timeline and be thinking about that, um , when you're doing your five year plan. Marguerite?

Marguerite M.:

I would say keep listening to the podcast so you can learn a lot more about each stage of the grant cycle.

Lauren Ullrich:

That's all that we have time for today on "Building Up The Nerve, so thank you so much to our guests this week. And also thank you to program director, Dr. Bob Riddle for our theme song and music. See you next time when we take you through initiating your research idea.

Marguerite M.:

You can find past episodes of this podcast and many more grant application resources on the web at NINDS.nih.gov. follow us on Twitter at @NINDSdiversity and @NINDSfunding. Email us questions at nindsnervepod@nih .gov and be sure to subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts or your favorite podcast app so you won't miss an episode. See you next time.

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