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2003 NINDS Career Development Technical Assistance Workshop


 

2003 NINDS Career Development Technical Assistance Workshop
March 31 through April 1, 2003
Westin Embassy Row Hotel, Washington, DC


Introduction

The workshop provided graduate students, post-doctoral fellows, and junior faculty supported by the NINDS Office of Minority Health & Research (OMHR) with information and resources to assist them in preparing competitive NIH grant applications. The goals for this workshop were to: 1) provide investigators with information on funding opportunities at NINDS, 2) provide instruction for preparing training, career development and research proposals, and 3) facilitate interaction among OMHR-supported investigators and the development of scientific networks. Outcome measures to monitor the effectiveness of the workshop include tracking the numbers and success rate of applications received from investigators that participated in the workshop.

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Background

The evidence for a need to increase the number of minorities and disabled individuals in NINDS extramural research programs is reflected in the under-representation of these groups participating in neuroscience departments and programs in the U.S. For example, the Association of Neuroscience Departments and Programs reports that in the year 2000, only 7% of all neuroscience post-doctoral trainees in the neurosciences were minorities, and only 8% of all tenure-tract faculty were minorities http://www.andp.org/. The NINDS Five Year Plan on Minority Health Disparities includes specific actions to strengthen research capacity by increasing recruitment and retention of minority neuroscientists in our extramural research programs http://www.ninds.nih.gov/about_ninds/disparities.htm. As a mechanism for achieving these goals, individuals who receive support from the NINDS Minority and Disability Supplement programs are encouraged to seek further extramural support from the NIH utilizing more traditional peer-reviewed funding mechanisms. In addition, students and faculty supported by other OMHR programs such as the Specialized Center Cooperative Agreements and the Collaborative Neurological Science programs are encouraged to apply for traditional research grant support. The workshop was designed to provide OMHR supportees with technical assistance in writing grants, access to NIH officials, and facilitate an atmosphere for scientific networking.

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Discussion

General Session

Dr. Jett opened the workshop and indicated that the morning session would be dedicated to a general discussion about funding mechanisms at NINDS and general grantsmanship, followed by specialized afternoon concurrent sessions on how to write competitive F-, K- and R-type proposals. He informed the participants that a Mock Review of a NIH grant proposal would occur the following morning and instructed all participants to obtain a copy of the grant at the registration table so that they could review the proposal before the Mock review. Following opening remarks by Dr. Penn, Dr. Khachaturian and Dr. Jett presented an overview of funding mechanisms at NINDS and provided participants with several handouts. Questions were encouraged and included inquiries from participants about the transition from a R21 to a R01, differences between a R03 and R21, policy on concurrent applications, research supplements, mentors at minority institutions, and support of medical students. Following this discussion, Dr. Patricia Stephens presented a lecture describing the key components of writing a competitive grant, and she provided the participants with an accompanying handout. The presentation was well received and generated many questions and enthusiasm for continued dialog with Dr. Stephens following the meeting. Some of the questions included how to respond to criticisms in a revised application, and the optimal number of specific aims.

Keynote Lecture

Following Dr. Stephen's lecture and lunch, the Keynote Lecture was given by Dr. Peter R. MacLeish on his studies of a gene expressed during spinal cord regeneration. Dr. MacLeish addressed several questions related to the implications of his work.

Concurrent Sessions

The Keynote Lecture was followed by three concurrent sessions on how to write fellowship (F-type), career development (K-type), and research (R-type) applications. These sessions were attended by about 20 participants each and questions included how to effectively address their potential to develop into an active researcher, what is meant by innovativeness and how is it different (or evaluated differently) from scientific merit or significance, how best to mesh the research plan with the training/career development plan, and the qualifications of mentors, especially where a small-school mentor may not be as highly qualified as a mentor from one of the leading research institutions. Other questions included the relative importance of the "Environment" criterion in the review of R01 applications, what is meant by high-risk/high-payoff with respect to R21 applications, and how to interpret specific comments made in summary statements. After the concurrent sessions, Tina Carlisle, Dianna Jessee, and Sheila Simmons from the NINDS Grants Management Branch presented advice and tips on avoiding financial or grants management pitfalls during the application process. Several grants management questions were asked related to modular budgets and percent effort

Plenary Sessions

The Plenary sessions followed with Dr. Ruth G. Perez's presentation of her personal experiences in writing her first R01, how she responded to her summary statement, and what it took to revise the application to make it competitive and funded. Dr. Michael J. Zigmond then presented a lecture on survival skills in research careers. Some of the questions posed to Dr. Ruth and Dr. Zigmond included how long it takes to revise and resubmit a R01, and how to manage your time.

Poster Session

The first day of the workshop was concluded with a poster session and networking event. A total of 44 Posters were available throughout the day from graduate students, post-doctoral fellows, and investigators. During the afternoon-evening poster session, the investigators attended their posters, and NINDS program staff from the Scientific Clusters and NINDS Offices visited the posters to speak with investigators. Presenters also visited each other's posters and several collaborations were born.

Mock Grant Review and Roundtable Discussions

On the second day of the workshop, Dr. Andrea Sawczuk, Dr. David Jett, and Dr. Alan Willard held a "Mock" study section that reviewed an actual NIH grant application from an anonymous applicant. This simulation consisted of a lively discussion of the merits of the grant application, and workshop participants were allowed to compare their review of the grant the night before, with the comments of the simulated study section. Other comments and questions were directed at the overall review process. The workshop concluded with five roundtable discussions where participants were allowed to have one-on-one sessions with NINDS program officials. These discussions consisted of questions and answers about preparation of their specific grant application.

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Recommendations/Conclusions

  • The Workshop provided technical assistance to OMHR supportees.
  • The effectiveness of the Workshop will be assessed by the number of competitive F-, K-, and R-type applications submitted by OMHR supportees (update to follow).

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Participants

Tina Carlisle
Grants Management Branch, National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, NIH

Margaret Jacobs
Program Director, National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, NIH

Dianna Jessee
Grants Management Branch, National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, NIH

David A. Jett, Ph.D.
Program Director, National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, NIH

Gaya Jeyarasasingam, Ph.D.
SProgram Director, National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, NIH

Henry Khachaturian, Ph.D.
Training, Career Development and Referral Officer, National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, NIH

Peter R. MacLeish, Ph.D.
Professor and Chairman, Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology Morehouse School of Medicine

Audrey S. Penn, M.D.
Acting Director, National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, NIH

Ruth G. Perez, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor, University of Pittsburgh

Andrea Sawczek, D.D.S., Ph.D.
Scientific Review Administrator, National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, NIH

Sheila Simmons
Grants Management Branch, National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, NIH

Patricia A. Stephens, Ph.D.
Independent Biomedical Writer and Editor

Alan Willard, Ph.D.
Chief, Scientific Review Branch, National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, NIH

Michael J. Zigmond, Ph.D.
Professor, University of Pittsburgh

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Last updated March 23, 2011