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Los Alamos National Laboratory NIH Grant Skills Workshop

This workshop is designed to provide practical training in grants skills and strategies. The objective is to provide a collegial training and mentoring environment, the development of research and scholarly collaborations, and promote professional research career development.

Sessions: Four 3-hour modules for a total of 12 hours


  • Laying the Foundations
  • Hypothesis and Specific Aims
  • Writing Significance and Innovation
  • Writing to your reviewers: review criteria and introduction to the grant review process

Before the first session:

1. Identify a “content” mentor who agrees to participate in the structured peer review process.

This person is necessary to ensure that the topic specific information and experimental approach are up to the standards of your field. This person should have a track record of success in securing extramural funding. If you have more than one person to serve in this capacity, you may recruit two content mentors. This person does not need to be within the institution, but must commit to providing timely feedback.

2. Identify your proposal topic, the gap in knowledge the research will address and prepare a specific aims page using the guidance from the NIAID website.

The key to a successful proposal is to identify an important topic that will answer a key gap in knowledge. You may have your topic in mind, but you must be able to clearly articulate why the research is meaningful and what specific unknown will be addressed. This may require some literature searches and reading before we meet. During introductions in the first session I will ask you to share your one sentence “gap in knowledge” with the group.

Preparing your hypothesis, specific aims page, significance and innovation will further focus your thoughts on the proposal. We will conduct assessments and edit the page during the session.

3. Send your current CV to and put “Grant workshop CV” in the subject line. Bring a copy of your CV to the workshop.

4. (optional) Acquire supplemental grant writing resources.

Free: “Making the right moves” (chapter 9) from Howard Hughes Medical Institute. You can download from

Not free: The Grant Application Writer's Workbook. This book is NIH-centric and worth the $75 investment if you plan to write multiple NIH grant applications. It is newly updated to reflect the shorter format. You may order it from


  • Follow-up from Session 1
  • Targeting your grant within NIH (Institute, program, study section)
  • Identifying and working with your collaborative team in grant preparation
  • Writing Research Plan/Research Design

Before the second session:

1. Conduct structured peer review on assigned grant sections.

Thoughtful and thorough peer review is an essential part of the process. You will be able to assess the strengths and weaknesses of different writing strategies to help improve your own writing, and receive the benefit of structured comments for the purposes of revision.

2. Work with your contact mentor(s) to draft a Research Plan. Include discussion of how unique capabilities/resources/collaborations might be brought to bear to strengthen your ability to achieve the stated scientific goal.

Expanding your research capabilities by effective leveraging of resources (equipment, intellectual, collaborative engagement, etc) is an important strategy for funding success.

3. Work with your contact mentor(s) to identify gaps that will need to be addressed before proposal submission. This could include (but is not limited to) essential preliminary or feasibility data, letters of support that will be required, MTAs that may need to be executed for reagents or animal models, publication(s) to demonstrate a collaboration or the PIs expertise and identification of an effective collaborative team.


  • Follow-up from Session 2
  • Revising Research Plan and Design
  • Optimizing the impact of other grant sections
  • The peer review process
  • Responding to Critiques, Revising a Proposal and resubmission

Before the third session:

1. Conduct structured peer review on assigned grant sections (Research Plan).

2. Based on feedback from peer and mentor reviews, revise Specific Aims, Significance and Innovation sections.

3. Based on feedback from peer and mentor reviews, work with your contact mentor(s) to identify a strategy to revise and strengthen your Research Plan.

4. Using information from Session 2, identify the most appropriate institute (or institutes, the most likely program officers and potential study sections. Contact at least one program officer with your polished and complete specific aims page and get guidance on 1) is the work a good fit for the program and 2) could the program officer suggest the most appropriate study sections/grant review panels.

After the third session:

1. Continue to work with your contact mentor(s) to build a complete proposal. Do not underestimate the importance of the “ancillary” grant sections such as facilities and resources, biosketches, and attention to detail in any human subjects or animal welfare sections. Continue to identify and resolve gaps or barriers that need to be addressed before proposal submission.

2. Commit to continuation of the peer review component for subsequent proposal revisions.

SESSION 4 – Final Wrap up

  • Follow-up from Session 3
  • Focus on “Ancillary” Grant sections
  • Tips and Tricks
  • Review of Work in Progress