Your Project Summary, also known as an abstract, is a one-page section of your R01 proposal that illustrates the overall objectives of your research proposal, the methodology that you plan to follow, and your specific aims. To properly craft this section, it is important to understand what the Project Summary means to your grant, your reviewers, and most importantly, you. Here are 3 important facts about the Project Summary every researcher must know:
- Your Project Summary is one of the few sections every reviewer will read. In 2017, there were over 30,000 R01 applications competing for limited funding. Reviewers will not read every proposal. Instead, they are using the Project Summary as one of the means to determine which applications deserve further consideration. This means that your Project Summary must pique the interest of the reviewer to convince them to read the rest of your proposal.
Writing Tip: Write with passion, excitement and vigor, because all reviewers will likely read this section.
- Your Project Summary is written by experts for non-experts. R01 grants are often geared toward gaps in scientific knowledge that are highly specific, technical and complex, requiring experts in the field to fill these gaps. However, while your reviewers have PhDs, they are not experts in every field. You must write in plain language so that a non-scientist can understand the significance. If your writing is too technical or too complex, a reviewer will have difficulty understanding the value of your research, and that value is directly tied to your funding chances.
Writing Tip: Write in plain language so anyone, even nonscientists, can understand the material.
- Your Project Summary is your R01. The Project Summary is unique in that it encompasses your entire proposal narrative. When writing, remember to highlight the research aspects of your proposal, i.e., your specific aims and approach. If an important feature, like significance or specific aims, is lacking or underdeveloped in your Project Summary, reviewers may think the same is true with the rest of your R01.
Writing Tip: Encompass your entire research narrative in your Project Summary (Specific Aims, Research Strategy, etc.).
Remember, while your Project Summary is very valuable, it is also very short (no more than 30 lines of text). This means that your writing must be focused and general, so you should edit this section several times throughout the course of writing your R01 proposal, developing a more focused, complete effort every time. Consider the months spent developing your R01 a waste of time if the Project Summary doesn’t grab the reviewers’ attention, because it won’t be read or given further consideration. If you can present a complete research narrative in your Project Summary, you will instill confidence in reviewers that you have thoroughly organized the facets of your application. This confidence is what reviewers want out of grant applications, and it’s what will maximize your R01 funding potential.
For more information on how to write an award-winning Project Summary, check out the newly launched, 2019 NIH R01 Grant: Expert Writing Skills Manual. Happy writing and good luck!