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2004 NINDS Career Development Technical Assistance Workshop



March 8-9, 2004
Hyatt Regency Bethesda, Bethesda, MD


The 2004 workshop was built on the success of the 2003 workshop by providing 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. Data on the number of applications received and success rates for participants at the 2003 workshop are being compiled. However, early estimates indicate that the NIH has received several F31, F32, K01, and R01 grants from investigators who attended the workshop. Most are still under review. Update to follow.



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 years 2000 and 2001, only 6% of all neuroscience post-doctoral trainees were minorities, and only 8% of all tenure-tract faculty were minorities . 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 . 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 other 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.



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. Following opening remarks by NINDS Deputy Director, Dr. Audrey S. Penn, an overview of funding mechanisms at NINDS was presented and participants were given several related handouts. Questions were encouraged, and they generated discussions regarding interpretation of the summary statement and submission of a revised application, the meaning of scores and percentiles, the ability of NIH staff to advise an applicant, Re-Entry Supplements, and choosing a good mentor, among others. Following this discussion, Dr. Patricia Stephens presented a lecture with an accompanying handout describing the key components of writing a competitive grant application. The presentation was well received and generated many questions and continued dialog with Dr. Stephens following the workshop. Dr. Stephens will be presenting similar tutorials at other NINDS meetings. Some of the questions at the end of her session included how to convince reviewers of the feasibility of proposed experiments and of one's ability to serve as a PI, how to seek advice from NIH staff about the likely interest in one's project, and on submitting supplemental materials after the deadline for the grant.


Concurrent Sessions

The General Grantsmanship Tutorial by Dr. Stephens was followed by three concurrent sessions on how to write fellowship (F-type), career development (K-type), and research (R-type) applications. Following general presentations, questions from the participants provided the impetus for several discussions including whether the K mechanism was appropriate for them, if K-grant mentors can be at other institutions, the success rate of F-type grant applications, the NIH loan repayment program, importance of choosing the right mentor for an F-type application, the review process for F-type applications, and whether one has enough preliminary data and publications for an R01 proposal or if an R21 or R03 were more appropriate. After the concurrent sessions, staff 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 on a variety of topics.


Plenary Sessions

Following the Plenary sessions was Dr. Luis Santana's presentation entitled "How to write a fundable grant application: A survival guide". This was an excellent description of Dr. Santana's experiences as a new investigator in writing and revising two funded R01 application. This lively presentation was filled with sound and practical advice about how to navigate through the peer-review process. Dr. Michael Zigmond then presented a lecture on survival skills in research careers. Dr. Zigmond is well-known for his "Survival Skills" courses and this presentation included a more general discussion about what it takes to be successful as an academic researcher. This engaging discussion included tips on creating healthy and productive work habits and how to sustain a long-lived career.


Poster Session

The first day of the workshop was concluded with a poster session and networking event. A total of 23 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.


Keynote Lecture

On day two of the workshop, the Keynote Lecture was given by Dr. Joseph Martinez entitled "How the brain stores information". Many of our young investigators were inspired by this scientific presentation by one of our nation's leading neuroscientists. Dr. Martinez addressed several questions related to the implications of his work.


Mock Grant Review and Roundtable Discussions

Also on the second day of the workshop, NINDS staff held a "mock" study section that reviewed two actual annotated NIH grant applications from anonymous applicants. This simulation consisted of a lively discussion of the merits of the grant application, and workshop participants were allowed to ask questions and make comments about the review process. This exercise gave workshop participants an inside look at how their applications are reviewed, and what kind of issues come up during a typical Study Section meeting. 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.



  • The Workshop provided excellent 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).


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

Katrina Gwinn-Hardy, M.D.
Program Director, 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

Joseph Martinez, Ph.D.
Professor, University of Texas San Antonio

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

Luis F. Santana, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor, University of Washington

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

Randall Stewart, Ph.D.
Program Director, National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, NIH

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


Last Modified February 23, 2011