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At the ISTSS 18th Annual Meeting in Boston, the Gender and Trauma SIG and the Research Methodology SIG co-sponsored a workshop on applying for training grants from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The workshop’s goal was to provide information to early career researchers (graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, junior faculty) about grant mechanisms appropriate to their level of training and guidelines for applying for grants.

NIH has many grant mechanisms for early career researchers. Several of these are mentored awards designed to provide the recipient with training and to accomplish a specific research project. The type of award depends on the individual’s level of training. Predoctoral students can apply for National Research Service Awards (NRSA) Individual Predoctoral Fellowships (F31, F30) to work with a mentor in their graduate program. Similarly, postdoctoral fellows can apply for NRSA Individual Postdoctoral Fellowships (F32) for up to three years of mentored postdoctoral work.

Researchers in junior faculty positions can apply for Early Career Development Awards (K01, K08, K12, K23, K25). The specific K-award for which a person is eligible depends on the type of advanced degree received and individual training goals. All K-awards pay a substantial part of your salary, require that you work with a mentor, provide training funds (for coursework) and provide up to $50,000 a year for research project costs. More information on applying for K-awards can be found at the K-award Kiosk http://grants1.nih. gov/training/careerdevelopmentawards.htm. The key questions to consider when applying for a mentored award are: What are your career objectives? What do you need to accomplish these objectives? How will you use the award to these ends? For each of these awards, you must provide an explicit plan for training and mentorship.

NIH also has grant mechanisms for early career researchers that focus on the conduct of a specific research project. One such award is the Behavioral Science Track Award for Rapid Transition (B/START), for newly independent behavioral scientists. It has a one-year duration, provides $50,000 of support and has a briefer application than other awards (10 or fewer pages). Other mechanisms that early career researchers might consider are the Small Grants Program (R03) or Exploratory/Developmental Grants (R21). Visit www.nih.gov for specific information about these mechanisms.

In deciding what grant mechanism is most appropriate for your needs, consider the following questions:

  • At what stage is your research career?
  • What do you intend to do?
  • Why is the work important?
  • What has already been done?
  • How are you going to do the work?
  • What are your research needs? Do you need a mentor or collaborator? How big is your intended project?

Once you have reflected on the above questions, where do you start?

  • Check out the National Institute of Health Web site at www.nih.gov. To explore how your research interest fits with prior or ongoing work, search CRISP (Computer Retrieval Information on Specific Projects), located on the NIH Web site, for abstracts of all funded projects. Other grant writing resources: Grant Writing Tip Sheets, grants2.nih.gov/grants/grant_tips.htm, and The Research Assistant, www.theresearchassistant.com.
  • Review the information on specific grant mechanisms at different institutes as examples: NIAAA, www.niaaa.nih.gov; NCHD, www.nichd. nih.gov; NIDA, www.nida.nih.gov; and NIMH, www.nimh.nih.gov. Institutes differ somewhat in the funding mechanisms they use and how they use them. Make sure the institute to which you are applying supports the funding mechanism that interests you.
  • Look at copies of other researchers’ successful grants.
  • Talk to the NIH program officer at the institute to which you expect your grant to go. Applications are assigned to institutes based on the overall mission of the institute and the specific programmatic mandates and interests of the institute.
  • The following project officers have encouraged ISTSS members to contact them about grant submissions: Harold Perl, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, hperl@willco.niaaa.nih.gov; Margaret Ferrick, National Institute on Child Health and Development, feerickm@ mail.nih.gov; Peter Delany, National Institute on Drug Abuse, pdelany@nida.nih.gov; and Farris Tuma, National Institute of Mental Health, ftuma@mail.nih.gov. The earlier you contact your program officer, the more helpful he or she can be.
  • Remember: When grants are written without proper thought and preparation, a good idea often is disguised as a bad one. Make sure this doesn’t happen to you.
  • And finally, submit. As the saying goes, you never know until you try.

Karestan C. Koenen is with the National Center for PTSD & Boston University Medical Center.