Strengthen your grant with a mock study section

Are you planning to submit a grant proposal to NIH or another large funding agency in 2020? If you are on the UNMC faculty and your draft proposal could use honest feedback from a group of more senior investigators (and what proposal couldn’t?), please plan in advance to request a mock study section review through the Great Plains IDeA-CTR.

The IDeA-CTR Professional Development core implemented its Research Studio program to foster competitive grant proposals by early-career faculty at participating institutions. It taps into the insights of multidisciplinary panels of 4-6 experienced faculty, each assembled in response to a specific investigator’s request. After a request is submitted in REDCap, including names of some suggested reviewers, staff at the Professional Development core review the request. If it is granted, they work to recruit a complete panel from UNMC and the other 7 Great Plains IDeA-CTR institutions. They schedule a 60-minute block when all can join with a moderator and the applicant for their studio, well in advance of the grant deadline.

Most investigators select one of two formats for their studio. If the proposal is in earlier developmental stages, it can be a review of the draft Aims page and brief proposed methods. If a complete draft proposal (Aim page plus Research Strategy) is ready to be circulated, the applicant should request an NIH-style mock study section review. Requests must be submitted at least 4 weeks prior to the grant submission deadlines (preferably 6-8 weeks), in order to convene the panel and leave meaningful time for revision.

Following a studio, the investigator receives written feedback from the panel, as well as a recording of their session.wellsandt

One enthusiastic endorsement of the program comes from Elizabeth Wellsandt, PhD, OCS, PT, DPT, assistant professor in the Division of Physical Therapy Education. As a recent participant, Dr. Wellsandt responded to a short Q&A request from CHRI:
CHRI: How would you describe your experience putting your research proposal in front of the faculty panel in this format?
EW: Putting my research proposal in front of a faculty panel within the research studio challenged me to think deeply about the science and rationale behind the project. In some ways the experience presents an opportunity to "defend" the significance of the problem and the necessity of the proposed approach. It required a deeper level of preparation than I had previous undertaken as the grant was put together. This preparation challenged me to identify weaker pieces of the grant before the research studio even occurred. I used part of the time within the research studio to ask specific questions about these areas I felt needed improvement.
CHRI: How did the panel’s feedback influence the “end product” of your grant proposal?
EW: The panel consisted of individuals with a wide range of expertise, wider than that of the study team within my proposed project. The panel provided perspectives and questions that neither I, nor my team, had previously considered, and helped us present the proposal using more commonly understood language. It was helpful to hear from panel members about how they interpreted details within the grant. This helped us in turn to re-format the significance section to more clearly set up the premise for our research aims, and more clearly articulate methodology in the approach section.
For additional information, please contact the Great Plains IDeA-CTR office at 402-552-2260 or