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Notes on the book ‘How the NIH Can Help You Get Funded’

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13 Mar 2020

How the NIH Can Help You Get Funded

Mike Becich is a wonderful researcher and entrepreneur, and chairman of the Department of Biomedical Informatics at the University of Pittsburgh. I met him on the residency and fellowship interview trail, and, among other things, we talked about grant strategy and how to build a career doing research in biomedical machine learning/informatics/data science/etc. He was kind enough to give me a copy of the book How the NIH Can Help You Get Funded, which is exactly what it sounds like: a how-to and strategy book for academic research scientists, most of whom depend on funding from the National Institutes of Health to support their work and salaries. The book is a publication of Oxford University Press and also available from Amazon.

These are my notes from and synthesis of this book. The synthesis was made by going through my notes and extracting things I thought were key and may be useful for quick review; the full notes I took as I was reading are copied below that.

If you notice any mistakes, misconceptions, or flatout wrongheadedness, please shoot me an email. Also, though the general outline of how the NIH works is fairly stable, specifics change from year to year and this book, as with almost every book of its genre, was outdated upon publication. It will be at least a few years before I apply for funding, at which point an even larger number of specific details will be out of date, so what I am looking for is general strategy and key history.


This book is a bit hard to summarize, as it has a mix of very practical and technical information, with general guidance, strategy, and advice (to use the parlance du jour, strategy and tactics). I figured this would be the case going in, hence this public store of notes that I can quickly review.

Some general things:


National Institutes of Health

This chapter provides a background on the NIH.

Institutes and Centers

Center for Scientific Review and the Peer Review Process

Getting at Mechanism

Aha! This is part of why I picked this book. I’ve always been curious about the specific mxns the NIH uses, and when to use which.

Small business grants

P grants

K awards

F and T awards

Summary: Tons of alphabet soup. Most of us will focus on R01 and ways to get to R01 (K,F,T, maybe R21/R03). For more specific stuff, it’s always changing anyway, so look it up and talk to your PO.

Telling Your Story Well

Institute Approach Significance Innovation Investigator Environment N
NCI 0.80 0.67 0.59 0.53 0.45 5396
NHLBI 0.82 0.67 0.64 0.56 0.48 3157

Getting by with a Little Help from Your Friends

Before and after Your Study Section Meets

Is the Check in the Mail?

The Check is Not in the Mail…

The Check is in the Mail, but…


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