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Common Mistakes in NIH Applications

The five review criteria for most NIH grant applications are:
Significance, approach, innovation, investigator, and environment.

Innovation is not necessary, but the results should have compelling significance.


Common Mistakes:


Problems with significance:
  • Not significant nor exciting nor new research
  • Lack of compelling rationale
  • Incremental and low impact research
Problems with specific aims:
  • Too ambitious, too much work proposed
  • Unfocused aims, unclear goals
  • Limited aims and uncertain future directions
Problems with experimental approach:
  • Inappropriate level of experimental detail
  • Feasibility of each aim not shown
  • Little or no expertise with approach
  • Lack of appropriate controls
  • Not directly testing hypothesis
  • Correlative or descriptive data
  • Experiments not directed towards mechanisms
  • No discussion of alternative models or hypotheses
  • No discussion of potential pitfalls
  • No discussion of interpretation of data
Problems with investigator:
  • No demonstration of expertise or publications in approaches
  • Low productivity, few recent papers
  • No collaborators recruited or no letters from collaborators
Problems with environment:
  • Inadequate institutional support

Last Modified June 1, 2011