I am spending the next three days at a secret location for an NIH conference grant/Program Officer-run grantwriting and mentoring workshop. Anything that is not confidential (i.e. pertaining to the specific research information shared there by proposal donators and other attendees) and might be useful to people here, I will share either as I go or after we're done! I'll just keep updating this post with info.
UPDATE 10-24-09: To address a good point that CPP made but also highlight what the workshop was really about, I updated the wording about "a compelling human health relevance."
UPDATE 10-23-09: This workshop was particularly focused towards junior faculty in synthetic organic chemistry, bioorganic/bioinorganic chemistry and chemical biology. I'll give snippets of stuff about different things we learned/talked about and experiences we had as I have time. Right now I have 5 minutes, so I'll tell you about the major NIH R01 take-home message from the workshop. The key, especially for chemists and anyone who does basic synthetic research that is not necessarily easy to connect to a disease, is to establish a credible, compelling human health relevance through developing a depth of understanding and solid rationale within the biology you want to study.
If you love inventing new ways to make complex natural products, it is NOT ENOUGH to just say "this natural product is interesting because it kills a cancer cell line with a potent IC50 and came from a sponge." Nor is it quite enough to say "This methodology is interesting because it would allow access to chemical structures or information about biological function that is hard to get otherwise." You really have to craft a strong argument for WHY your particular methodology or hypothesis is fundamentally important to the study or treatment of a human health problem at whatever level your work can fit, for example:
- tool-development for basic biological research
- novel methodology for accessing difficult molecular architectures that can probe or affect biological function
as well as HOW it represents a new angle for approaching the problem. Once you lay that groundwork in the beginning through the specific aims page, "significance" and "innovation" sections, THEN you can get more into the details of your specialty. But no amount of beautiful chemistry or insightful methodology will get you past the hurdle of not finding a compelling connection to a disease-related biological knowledge gap.