Hyperlinks in a Grant–Yes or No?

Hyperlinks provide a clean, efficient way to offer readers additional information or clarifications of key ideas in our prose, and they allow us to keep our missives targeted and brief. However, the NIH holds two things sacrosanct–page limits and reviewer anonymity–and both are potentially violated by the use of hyperlinks in grant applications.

By linking to additional information outside of the text, writers using hyperlinks can dramatically foreshorten their text. For the NIH, limiting application length not only keeps the review process manageable, but it is also an issue of fairness—everyone has an equal number of pages in which to present their proposal. Hyperlinks to supplemental information are considered, like the inappropriate inclusion of materials as appendices, attempts to subvert the process, and applications circumventing the page limits can be considered non-responsive and removed from consideration prior to peer review.

Hyperlinks can also expose reviewers and agency administrators to privacy and security threats, like malware. Use of a hyperlink may also expose the identity of reviewers, another potential issue.

The upshot? NIH advises applicants to follow opportunity-specific guidelines outlined in the instructions and FOA. Biosketches and publication list attachments may have links, but follow the instructions for appropriate use and targets.

For more information about when and how to use hyperlinks in your next application, check out The Do’s & Don’ts of Hyperlinks in Grant Applications in the NIH Extramural Nexus blog.

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