If you are considering submission of an R01 application, you should know it is no small undertaking. You must be fully prepared to commit 6 months of time, energy and focus. If not, you risk submitting a rushed, unfocused proposal that has little chance of being funded. You will have wasted valuable time writing a substandard proposal, and given reviewers a poor view of your abilities.
To ensure efficiency and effectiveness in your R01 proposal, here are 5 questions to ask yourself that will help you determine if you are really ready:
Do you know your project’s Impact?
Impact is a key review criterion that should be expressed throughout your entire proposal. It is also one of the toughest. Determining Impact requires a thorough investigation of literature in your research field. Before beginning your application, you must do a complete investigation of the knowledge gaps in your field and develop a proposal that targets one of these areas, thus providing a recognizable impact to your application.
Are you sure that the R01 is the right funding mechanism for you?
You must fully understand the purpose of the R01 to effectively write the proposal. The NIH provides various grant mechanisms with different purposes and different guidelines. To write an effective proposal, you must know what makes the R01 grant perfect for your goals so that you can effectively accent those attributes in your application. For example, if your work is exploratory in nature, or you need to obtain preliminary data, an R01 is not right for you. Instead, you should consider either an R03 or an R21.
Have you identified a specific ICO or FOA?
Pinning down the correct NIH Institute and Center Operation (ICO) or Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) allows you to play to your scientific strengths. For example, if you are an expert in breast cancer, target the National Cancer Institute. Reviewers want to fund research that tackles a specific gap in knowledge, which requires a focused proposal aimed at a specific FOA or ICO. Also, FOAs may have specific guidelines, such as eligibility, research focus, and due dates, that you need to be aware before crafting your application.
Have you spoken to a Program Officer?
Taking the time to speak to a Program Officer (PO) before you start writing is essential. They can tell you about projects that the NIH is interested in funding and can offer advice on possible research ideas. As you speak to the PO, try to gauge their enthusiasm. If a PO is excited about a topic, they can help steer your proposal in the right direction - towards ideas of interest to the NIH. POs can help you avoid wasting valuable time developing an idea that likely would not be funded.
Is your research feasible?
The R01 is not an exploratory mechanism, so you must have a project that will deliver results. If you are collecting data that is sporadic, unreliable or inconsistent, you are going to have a hard time coming up with convincing preliminary data for your proposal.
If you answered “No” to any of the above questions, you are certainly not ready to begin writing your R01 grant application. However, answering “yes” doesn’t mean you are completely prepared either.
R01 grant applications are complex. Answering “yes” to the above questions is a great place to start, and certainly puts you ahead of those PIs that answered “no.” However, to ensure you comply with the numerous aspects of this confusing grant application, try checking out the newly launched, 2019 NIH R01 Grant: Expert Writing Skills Manual. Happy writing and good luck!