Putting Together Your Strongest Summer R25 Application

Putting Together Your Strongest Summer R25 Application

The goal of the NIH Summer R25 is to support creative educational activities with a primary focus on providing NINDS-mission relevant research experiences for high school and undergraduate students or high school science teachers. For students, this could take the form of providing hands-on exposure to research, reinforcing their intent to graduate with a science degree and/or continue to participate in research, and/or to preparing them for college or graduate school admissions and/or careers in research. For high school teachers the focus should be on enhancing their science teaching, complete with a clear plan for how teachers will utilize their summer experience in their teaching during the school year, such as enhancing the STEM curriculum or increasing number of STEM courses taught.

In addition to hands-on research experiences, programs are expected to include complementary activities that support the participants' scientific development, such as scientific writing and presentation skills and training in rigor and reproducibility. Importantly, the proposed program needs to fit with the mission of NINDS and should not have a general neuroscience focus. NINDS will not support projects, regardless of the results of merit review, if they do not fulfill current programmatic priorities.

Summer R25 applicants should present a complete and compelling plan detailing how the proposed program will take advantage of the institutional strengths to provide research experiences and professional development tailored to the unique needs of their participants. This FOA can support a variety of types of programs, but each program must still articulate and support a clear vision.

Before You Start Your Application

  1. Carefully read the entire FOA. The FOA contains a lot of vital information that can be easily overlooked.
  2. Consider the strengths of your institution or department. In which area(s) and for what audience(s) are your organization best positioned to offer research education? Are there existing resources or programs you can leverage to support the proposed program? Consider educational, mentoring, or evaluation support, other research education program partners, diversity and inclusion efforts, etc. What form(s) of institutional commitment are available and how will you demonstrate them?
  3. Define your participants. Explicitly define who your program will serve. Consider characteristics such as: career level, scientific interests, local residents or national selection, level of prior research experience, or interest in a career in medicine versus research. How will you advertise your program and set your selection criteria to capture the intended participants? What are their needs and how will you design your program to serve them? How will you recruit and retain a diverse cohort of participants? Applications that demonstrate the potential to impact students or teachers from diverse backgrounds are particularly encouraged.
  4. Explicitly define the goals of your program. Considering the strengths of your organization and the needs of your intended participants, set clearly defined goals for your program. By the end of this experience, what will participants have gained and how will you measure it? What kind of outcomes do you expect? Evaluation of quality and effectiveness is a key aspect of this program, in both the short-term and long-term. 
  5. Assemble your leadership and/or advisory groups. Some programs choose a multi-PI model and/or advisory board in order to benefit from the complementary expertise of multiple people. If you go this route, it is important to clearly define roles and responsibilities and the governance structure. The leadership (team) should have scientific accomplishments in an appropriate area and experience in administering educational programs for the relevant career stage.
  6. Define your program faculty. Researchers from diverse backgrounds are encouraged to participate as program faculty. Faculty do not have to have NINDS funding but should be able to support research projects for trainees within the NINDS mission, not just general neuroscience. Consider offering mentor training, especially if faculty do not have experience mentoring participants at the chosen career level.
  7. Design your research education program. Reflecting on your goals and the participants needs, design a research education program rooted in the latest educational best practices. The program must propose at least 8 weeks in the summer but may include year-round experiences as well (up to 15 weeks of total participation per 12 months), for continued engagement and retention. Clearly define the content to be conveyed and schedule. How will you provide authentic, meaningful research educational experiences to participants with a focus on rigor and reproducibility? What professional development skills and techniques will be learned? How will you encourage networking within the cohort and across the institution? How will you evaluate outcomes and adapt accordingly? How will you disseminate your results?
  8. Preliminary data. Consider gathering preliminary data in support of the feasibility of this program. This could take the form of outcomes from current smaller-scale efforts or other research education programs offered at the institution.
  9. Assess partnerships needed, both at your institution and outside it, if appropriate. These may be beneficial for recruitment and/or program offerings. Within your institution, potential partnerships include centers for mentorship, teaching, diversity, or evaluation. Other research training programs or umbrella programs also may provide fruitful opportunities for synergy, but they cannot be redundant with the program being offered. Partnering with other institutions for recruitment or training can also be an appropriate model. Consider the possibilities for mutual benefit, and clearly define roles and responsibilities in the leadership plan.
  10. Put together your application. Or choose a different award. After assessing your needs, you may find that the NINDS Summer R25 is not a good fit. Other NIH Institutes that participate in the Summer R25 are NIAAA, NIBIB, NIDA, NIDCR, and NIEHS. You may also want to consider SEPA, or an NSF REU. Please reach out to NINDS to discuss your options.