Strategies for the New NIH Biosketch Format (Part 4)

I think this will be my last post about the NIH biosketch form for a while. It’s dry stuff, even for the topic of grants. It’s hard to blog about grants, mostly because there is so much understandable anxiety out there around the topic of grants and research funding. In my in-person training sessions and consulting, I lighten the mood with a little dry humor, and usually all of the interaction in the sessions keeps the mood lighter, too. In my blog, however, I do keep the tone more serious overall, mostly because people can be really stressed about funding, and I want this space to be a resource they feel they can trust. That squeezes humor out the door a bit. Even so, dealing with the trauma investigators feel as a result of the new biosketch form has really bummed me out, so I really just need to finish up this series and move on. As usual, though, I welcome any questions folks may have! I don’t have all the answers, but I do have some strategies and some good questions to think about. Usually that’s what people need more than a stock answer, anyway.

As I said at the outset and I will recapitulate here for good measure, it is important to spend some time and energy on the team’s biosketches. This is why I have blogged about the topic so much last week and yesterday. (Previous posts have discussed strategies for the biosketch in general, the Personal Statement section, the Contribution to Science section, and the complex topic of gap explanations.) Today, I will wind up the biosketch series with a quick discussion of Research Support section strategies. I have not forgotten my promise to discuss MyBibliography and SciENcv, two digital databases that can be used to provide the Complete List of Published Work in the biosketch. They are still to follow.

Simply put, the Research Support section is a list of support–Federal and non-Federal–from the past three years. It is split into two sub-sections, Ongoing Research Support and Completed Research Support. The distinctions are self-explanatory. It’s pretty standard stuff: organize by beginning with “the projects that are most relevant to the research proposed in the application,” and, just as you have in this biosketch overall, briefly describe the funded project in terms of your goals and responsibilities.

The strategy in this section is to consider the outcomes that are important to the funder. Your tenure and promotion really are not on their radar. At all. What is on their radar is their mission, and typically that mission is supported by projects netting products. Traditionally, valued “products” have been peer-reviewed publications in academic journals, but this new format indicates that the pool of valued products has expanded to include: audio and video products, patents, data and research materials, databases, educational aids or curricula, instruments or equipment, models, protocols, software and netware. (To be clear, per the Golden Rule, these products are valuable if they further the mission of the funder, so remember to consider your products in that context when deciding which ones to include in your biosketch.)

So, if you list funding for which, realistically, there should be a product from the project, you should strongly consider making sure that product is included in one of the areas of the new biosketch format in which you can list your products (i.e., in the Personal Statement or in the Contribution to Science). Yes, of course it will appear in your Complete List of Published Work if you have kept the database you employ current. But, in this competitive funding environment, what you can do is very different from what you should do.

In layman’s terms, you want to make it evident that you hold up your end of the bargain–when you are funded, you produce a product of value, as expected. Reviewers do notice if a grant seeker has not performed per the social contract of research, and they do (rightfully) take it into account when scoring an application.

Happy Holidays to all!

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