Procedures for NIH Grant Proposal Biographical Sketches (Biosketches) Are Evolving
The National Institutes of Health reports it is in the process of implementing changes to the Biographical Sketch component of grant proposal submissions. In 2012, the NIH requested comments about changing the format of its biographical sketch component due to concerns that the existing format may not have the flexibility needed to describe an applicants’ accomplishments. However, many applicants and reviewers are of the opinion that the existing system allows for sufficient self-promotion and that the proposed system will cause more work for reviewers and, in essence, amounts to the implementation of an unnecessary social media component in the grant application process.
For proposals funded in FY2014-2015, the Pilot Biographical Sketch Format Page (SF424) is being tested with particular funding opportunity announcements (FOAs) and full implementation of the system is anticipated for proposals to be funded in FY2016. The new format increases the page allowance from 4 to 5 pages. The goal of the new format is to facilitate description of the “magnitude and significance of the scientific advances associated with a researcher’s discoveries and the specific role the researcher played in those findings (Rock Talk, May 22, 2014).”
In addition, researchers will be able to link to their publications list using SciENcv or MyBibliography. As described on the website, SciENcv is a feature of My NCBI that allows an applicant to develop a shareable online professional profile. Applicants can include information about their educational background, specific areas of interest and expertise, employment history, and other professional activities and accomplishments. The system generates biosketches that are compatible with the formats required for federal grant applications. Most people may be familiar with MyBibliography, another feature of My NCBI, which can be used to save and share reference citations.
The primary thing to remember is to include information in your Biosketch that is relevant to the specific grant proposal application that you intend to submit. In addition, since the system is in the process of changing, be sure to use the most recent forms and procedures needed to submit your grant application; be sure to check the requirements of your granting agency.
List your education/training activities chronologically from baccalaureate degree through post-doctoral training.
Explain why you should be on the research team. The information you provide should be relevant to the project proposed. I find that most personal statements submitted for my review fail to do this! Often, there is no mention of why the applicant is a good fit for the individual research project or the research team. It is as though applicants assume that the reasons are self-evident. In addition, in their effort to demonstrate their competencies, many applicants try to include evidence of everything thing they have ever done, even if there is no link to the project proposed. Most of the problems that I see with Personal Statements can be fixed by focusing the personal statement on why you should be performing the work at all and by demonstrating that you have the expertise to accomplish the goals proposed.
Positions and Honors
List these chronologically. I often find applicants whose credentials don’t fit the typical “academic” progression. Often these are highly accomplished people, outside of academia, who are members of multi-disciplinary research teams. When asked to create a Biosketch to be included in a grant application submission they, rightly, become frustrated, and often say: “I don’t have a PhD (or MD)!” or “I don’t have any publications!” or “There is no place to indicate my licensures!” I suggest that they elaborate on their particular relevance to the project in their Personal Statement, but also that they list the accomplishments relevant to their areas of expertise, and consequently, the proposed project, (eg, licensures) here.
Selected Peer-Reviewed Publications
List these chronologically; only those peer-reviewed publications that are published or in-press. There should be two sections for NIH: 1) Publications most relevant to the current application and 2) Additional publications of that are of importance to the field.
List all federal and non-federal support from most to least relevant to the current application; do not include applications submitted more than three years ago. There should be two sections for NIH: 1) Ongoing Research Support, and 2) Research Support Completed During the Last Three Years.
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