Program Project &
Center Grants – How to
Be Competitive
The Nuts and Bolts
Amy Gantt
Office of Proposal Development
Multi-Project Proposals:
Before you begin to write
Decide what mechanism best suits your
scientific goals.
– NIH Program Project: Supports shared cores
and individual research projects.
– NIH Center: Supports shared resources for
existing and new research projects (but often
not new research projects, though that
differs by IC). Must ensure that there are
sufficient projects for the center to support:
Different institutes have different minimum
requirements.
Multi-Project Proposals:
Before you begin to write
A non-NIH funding opportunity may suit your
needs better and be marginally less competitive:
– NSF Centers of Excellence: Provide support of
interdisciplinary research and education for
specific topics. These are not investigator
initiated and are generally for basic science
research.
– Foundations: Foundations such as the
Melanoma Research Alliance sometimes fund
team science along the lines of a program
project or center. Requirements vary by
foundation, but typically address a specific
disease or research topic.
Multi-Project Proposals:
Before you begin to write
• Contact the relevant program officer well in
advance!
– The number of funded proposals for program project
& center grants is quite low.
– Program officers will help to determine if the
proposed project is a good fit for your IC.
– If requesting a budget of more than $500K in any one
year, contacting your program officer is a must.
• Read the Funding Opportunity Announcement
carefully!
– Each Institute/Center has specific instructions for
program project & center grants.
Multi-Project Proposals:
Before you begin to write
• Make certain that you can address all review
criteria.
– The instructions for reviewers add useful
information to the FOA or IC-specific
instructions.
• Begin integrating projects & cores early in the
process of developing your proposal.
– It’s easier to begin integrating from the beginning
than to look for points of synergy late in the
writing process.
– Demonstrate that a multi-project approach is
uniquely advantageous to addressing your theme
or research questions.
NIH Program Project &
Center Grants
• Many institutes & centers are funding very
few program projects and centers, and some
are not using these mechanisms at all.
• Evaluate your scientific goals to determine if
your proposal would be competitive using
one of these mechanisms, or if another
funding source would be more appropriate.
Note: The data in the following slides are from NIH’s report “Grants:
Applications, awards, success rates, and total funding, by IC,
mechanism, activity code, and funding source,” found at
http://report.nih.gov/frrs/index.aspx
Program Project Grants (P01):
Funding Rates (FY2010)
NIH IC
#Reviewed
#Awarded
Success
Rate
NCI
107
26
24.30%
NHLBI
91
30
32.97%
NIA
63
11
17.46%
NIAID
51
16
31.37%
NICHD
28
10
35.71%
NIDDK
21
8
38.10%
NIGMS
11
3
27.27%
Program Project Grants (P01):
Funding Rates (FY2010)
NIH IC
#Reviewed
#Awarded
Success
Rate
NINDS
10
6
60.00%
NIDA
7
1
14.29%
NINR
3
0
0.00%
NIBIB
2
0
0.00%
NIDCR
2
0
0.00%
NIMH
2
2
100.00%
NIAAA
1
1
100.00%
NHGRI
1
1
100.00%
Center Grants (P30):
Funding Rates (FY2010)
NIH IC
#Reviewed
#Awarded
Success
Rate
NIDDK
41
22
53.66%
NIA
18
9
50.00%
NCRR
15
7
46.67%
NIMH
15
1
6.67%
NCI
13
13
100%
NEI
13
8
61.54%
NINDS
11
2
18.18%
Center Grants (P30):
Funding Rates (FY2010)
NIH IC
#Reviewed
#Awarded
Success
Rate
NIEHS
11
5
45.46%
NIDA
10
4
40.00%
NICHD
9
4
44.44%
NIAID
8
4
50.00%
NIDCD
6
3
50.00%
NIAMS
1
0
0.00%
NEI
1
0
0.00%
NHLBI
0
0
0.00%
Specialty Center Grants (P50):
Funding Rates (FY2010)
NIH IC
#Reviewed
#Awarded
Success
Rate
NCI
71
16
22.54%
NINDS
29
11
37.93%
NIA
15
10
66.67%
NIDA
15
6
40.00%
NIGMS
14
2
14.29%
NCCAM
13
5
38.46%
Specialty Center Grants (P50):
Funding Rates (FY2010)
NIH IC
#Reviewed
#Awarded
Success
Rate
NIMH
12
4
33.33%
NHGRI
9
4
44.44%
NHLBI
6
5
83.33%
NIDCD
2
0
0.00%
NIAAA
1
0
0.00%
OD
0
0
0.00%
Multi-PI Research Grants (R01) as
Potential Alternative to P-Grants
• Designed to encourage a team science
approach when that is the most
appropriate way to address a problem
• In general, multi-PI R01s should include
PIs from different fields or with
substantially different expertise
• New investigators will lose new
investigator status if they successfully
compete as PI on a multi-PI research grant
Multi-PI Research Grant (R01) as
Potential Alternative to P-Grants?
• Follows all the requirements of single-PI
R01s, including formatting, budget
constraints, and breadth of focus
• May be a good alternative if an investigator is
not ready for a program project or center, but
would like to establish strong collaborations
for future, more extensive proposals
• Multi-PI Leadership Plan template is
available at grantwriting.tufts.edu
Review Criteria for
Multi-Project Proposals
Significance
Investigators/Program Leadership
Innovation
Approach
Environment
Integration
Additional Review Criteria (Human Subjects,
Inclusion of Women, Minorities & Children,
Vertebrate Animals, Biohazards, Select
Agents, Budget, etc.)
• Cores
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
Significance
• The overall project must address an
important problem or critical barrier to
progress in the field
• The proposed studies must change the
concepts, methods, technologies, treatments,
services, or preventative interventions that
drive the field.
• The significance should not only explained
for the individual research projects, but also
for the overall project. How will the program
project or center be more than the sum of its
parts?
Investigators &
Program Leadership
• Investigators must have a demonstrated record of
accomplishments that have advanced their fields
(if established), or demonstrate appropriate
experience and training (if New or Early Stage).
• Investigators must have complementary and
integrated expertise.
• The project team should have some record of
collaboration.
• Program director and project leaders should not
be perceived as overcommitted.
• The leadership approach, governance and
organizational structure should be appropriate
and well-explained.
Innovation
• Both the overall project and the individual
research projects must use innovative
approaches or seek to shift current
paradigms.
• When discussing the overall project,
demonstrate how the program differs from
previous approaches, and how that will
allow it to address gaps, discrepancies or
roadblocks in the field.
Approach
• Combined with “Significance,” “Approach”
is the primary driver of the overall impact
score (according to data provided by NIH.
• Provide sufficient preliminary data.
• Ensure that the overall strategy, methods,
and analyses are well-reasoned and
appropriate to accomplish the aims.
• Discuss potential problems and alternative
strategies, particularly in cases where
individual projects are linked.
Environment
• Demonstrate how the institution(s) will
support the proposed program.
• Discuss only those resources that are
relevant to the proposed program.
• Demonstrate that there is adequate
equipment, space, and support staff to
conduct the research.
Integration
• Evidence of coordination,
interrelationships, and synergy among the
projects and cores.
– Interrelated specific aims
– Shared study participant population
– Shared resources/equipment/etc.
• Clearly explain the relationship of all
projects and cores to the overall theme.
Integration
• Demonstrate the advantages of the program
as a program project or center over individual
research projects.
– Ask yourself why you want to submit a multiproject grant over individual grants.
– Develop the overall specific aims and hypotheses
carefully, and demonstrate how the individual
parts will help to accomplish these aims.
• Discuss how the team will interact over the
course of the project period.
– Be concrete and realistic. Even if the entire team
is in one building, this should be carefully
addressed.
Integration
• Discuss what mechanisms will be used for
quality control of the research.
– How will the project leader ensure that the
aims are accomplished in a timely way?
– How will adjustments be made if
unanticipated problems occur?
• Address each PI’s roles and
responsibilities, team governance, and
organizational structure.
– Include an organizational chart.
Additional Review Criteria
• Human Subjects; Inclusion of Women,
Minorities & Children; Vertebrate Animals;
Biohazards; Select Agents, Resource Sharing
Plans, Budget, etc. will all be evaluated and
must be addressed (if applicable).
• Budgets should be realistic in terms of the
work to be completed, level of effort, and
methodology.
• Note that reviews of Program Project Grants
are performed by Special Emphasis Panels
(SEPs) convened by the individual institutes
and centers (IC’s); they are not reviewed by
standing CSR study sections.
Shared Resource Cores
• Core Units should be designated by a letter
(A, B, C) and a title (e.g., Administrative
Core, Imaging Core, etc.).
• A full description of each Core should be
provided following the format provided in
the most up-t0-date Form PHS-398 and
any additional instructions in the FOA.
– Note: FOA instructions supersede PHS-398
instructions.
Shared Resource Cores
• Cores must provide services required for the
completion of the project goals – Choose your
cores carefully!
• For program project grants, cores must
provide services to at least two – or for some
ICs, three – of the individual research
projects in the program (unless otherwise
specified).
• For center grants, cores must provide
services to the number of federally-funded
research projects specified by the IC.
Shared Resource Cores
Excellent cores should:
• Provide services to the program efficiently.
• Have well-defined plans for prioritizing
the cores’ services.
• Have highly experienced leadership, a
clearly-defined management structure,
and sufficient personnel.
• Provide exceptional services encompassing
unique, innovative approaches and
cutting-edge technology.
Shared Resource Cores: Structure
Section
Core Unit Cover
Page
To Include
Page
Limit
• Title of Core unit
• Core director name, title, affiliation
1 page
• Other investigators’ names, titles, affiliations
• Summary that identifies & describes the
Core Unit Abstract/
purpose of the Core
Summary
• Summary of Core’s overall objectives
(if applicable –
• Highlight the decision-making process for
check the FOA)
use of Core services and plans for costeffectiveness and quality control
1 page
Introduction
1 page
Resubmission or Revision applications only
Shared Resource Cores: Structure
Page
Limit
Section
To Include
Core Services Aims
(if applicable –
check the FOA)
• Summary of resources & facilities the Core
provides that are essential for multiple
projects
• Check FOA – Some require each Core to
serve a minimum of 3 projects, while others
require a minimum of 2.
Core Services Plan
(or Core Unit
Structure,
Administration &
Services Provided)
• Should also indicate the anticipated usage by
6 pages
each research project
Progress
Report/Publication
List
• Renewal applications only
• Most relevant for scientific cores (rather
than administrative cores)
References/
Literature Cited
1 page
Administrative Core
• Not all institutes and centers allow
administrative cores – be sure to read the
FOA carefully!
• Following is a general outline for
administrative cores. Be certain to use the
appropriate subheadings listed in the FOA.
Administrative Core:
Potential Outline
• Overview & Objectives: Overview of plans
for:
– Organizational & administrative management
of the overall program.
– Coordination & communication within the
program.
– Employing appropriate methods to monitor
progress of the projects & effective use of
shared resource cores.
Administrative Core:
Potential Outline
• Personnel: In addition to PI, could include
an Administrative Core director, business
manager, internal steering committee, &
external advisory board.
– Provide a short bio for the PI stressing
scientific skills, research record &
administrative qualifications, particularly
leadership skills.
– Organizational chart with clear lines of
authority.
Administrative Core:
Potential Outline
• Resources: Provide description of space &
physical resources of the Administrative
Core.
• Services Provided: Examples include:
– Financial & Grant Management Support
– Oversight of Scientific Cores
– Oversight of Research Projects
– Activities to Foster Multidisciplinary
Interactions
– Evaluation of Cores
Administrative Core:
Potential Outline
• Administration:
– Regular meetings of participating investigators
are essential to the consolidation of the research
projects into a cohesive program.
– Investigators are expected to assist the PD/PI in
making administrative & scientific decisions.
– Oversight committees: Internal & external
advisory boards can be included. Discuss plans
for meetings and use of recommendations.
• Milestones & Core Integration: Discuss
concrete milestones and expected
accomplishments.
What can OPD do for you?
Depending on time in advance of the deadline,
existing commitments, and the needs of the
project team, OPD offers the following services
for multidisciplinary proposals:
• Project management of submission
• Extra-narrative elements
• Templates & outlines
• “Standard” institutional text
• Grantsmanship advice & editing of narrative
elements
Note: Due to limited resources, OPD is typically only able to offer these resources
for proposals submitted through Tufts University, though there are exceptions.
OPD Services:
Project Management
Checklist: OPD creates customized
checklists of proposal requirements based
on the specific FOA. These include:
– All required elements of the overall proposal
and individual projects/cores
– Instructions & page limits for each section
– Person(s) responsible
– Internal deadline(s)
OPD Services:
Project Management
Timeline: With the PI/project team, OPD
develops a week-by-week timeline of what
needs to be accomplished for a competitive
submission.
– Iterative drafts of all narrative pieces
– Coordination of biosketches & letters of
support
– Budget & justification development
– Tufts internal forms
Sample Timeline
Week 1 (Nov. 7-11)
Internal
Deadline
- Provide OPD with a list of participating faculty/key personnel
Nov. 8
- Determine any external collaborators or subcontracts
Nov. 8
- Initial draft of overall Specific Aims, Significance & Innovation
to OPD for review
Nov. 10
- OPD to begin grants.gov package data entry/forms
Nov. 11
Week 2 (Nov. 14-18)
- Contact department manager(s) to begin working on budget
Nov. 14
- Send OPD CVs for participating external faculty; OPD to request
biosketches from Tufts faculty
Nov. 14
- OPD to edit initial draft of letters of support
Nov. 15
- OPD to provide feedback on Aims/Significance/Innovation
Nov. 16
Timeline for Working with OPD
• We do our best to support all teams who
request our help with proposal submissions,
particularly for large, multi-investigator
proposals.
• As soon as you decide to pursue a grant and
you think you will need our help, please let us
know so we can get you on our calendar.
• The earlier we can plan for your proposal, the
more resources we can have available for you.
Timeline for Working with OPD
Service Requested
Minimum Time
Required*
- Assistance with identification of areas of
synergy within the various projects/cores;
project management; grantsmanship & editing;
coordination of extra-narrative elements; etc.
Earlier the better – this
service requires meeting
with the project team and
learning how the projects
are integrated
- Project management; grantsmanship & editing
of all narrative elements; coordination of extranarrative elements; grants.gov package forms
10 weeks
- Grantsmanship & editing of all individual
projects/cores (multiple drafts); coordination of
select extra-narrative elements
4 weeks
- Grantsmanship & editing of select individual
projects/cores (single draft)
2 weeks
- Copyediting for ESL or typographical errors
1 week
* Note: This minimum time requirement is the time between receiving materials
or scheduling initial meetings with project team and the Tufts ORA internal deadline.
OPD Services:
Extra-Narrative Elements
•
•
•
•
•
Biographical sketches
Facilities & other resources
Budget justification
Letters of support
Grants.gov package
Extra-Narrative Elements:
Biographical Sketches
• Request and gather biosketches from all
members of the project team.
• Ensure that formatting and included
information are compliant with
regulations.
• Grantsmanship edit of personal statement
to ensure role is adequately described and
integration of team is apparent.
Extra-Narrative Elements:
Facilities & Other Resources
• Ensure that Facilities & Other Resources
sections are received from internal and
external collaborators.
• Grantsmanship edit to demonstrate that
the environment will contribute to the
success of the program.
• Provide “standard” institutional text if
required.
Extra-Narrative Elements:
Budget Justification
• Provide initial draft of budget justification
based on text.
• Grantsmanship edit to ensure that all
necessary costs are justified (depending on
requirements and budget type.)
• Edit to ensure that numbers in the
justification match those in the budget.
Note: OPD does not have the capacity to develop budgets. However, we can offer
advice on the justification and on the way funds will be used.
Extra-Narrative Elements:
Letters of Support
• Upon request, draft unique letters of
support to be sent to external
collaborators/consultants.
• Edit letters of support to ensure they
indicate the roles & responsibilities of each
collaborator/consultant.
Extra-Narrative Elements:
Grants.gov Package
• Enter appropriate data into form fields.
• Attach final documents to the package.
• Ensure that all elements of the proposal
are complete.
• Provide completed grants.gov package to
the PI for review.
OPD Services:
Templates & Outlines
Grantwriting.tufts.edu has a number of NIH
templates & outlines available for download:
• NIH biographical sketch (template & sample)
• NIH Major Equipment
• NIH Personnel Justification
• NIH Resources
• NIH Multiple PI Leadership Plan
• NIH Responsible Conduct of Research
OPD Services:
Templates & Outlines
Grantwriting.tufts.edu also has NSF
templates available, and upon request, we
can provide:
• Outlines & templates for other funding
agencies or specific FOAs
• Outline & instructions for Specific Aims
section
• Outline/template for the Administrative
Core
OPD Services:
Standard Institutional Text
The OPD has text about the institution,
schools, departments, and a number of
institutes & centers available upon request.
Because much of this text has been collected
from previously submitted proposals, it
must be updated and customized for your
particular proposal!
OPD Services:
Grantsmanship Advice & Editing
• Ensure that the review criteria are clearly
addressed.
• Note and provide suggestions for sections
that seem incomplete or unclear.
• Highlight areas in which synergies among
projects/cores could be discussed.
• Assist with organization of ideas as well as
overall structural organization of the
proposal.
Wrapping Up
• Multi-project grants are highly competitive, but
these mechanisms allow for multidisciplinary,
integrated teams of scientists to accomplish more
and answer bigger questions than they could on
their own.
• Submitting a program project or center grant takes
a lot of preparation and groundwork, trust among
the team members, and organization.
• The Office of Proposal Development has extensive
resources to support your proposal submission.
Our early involvement in your grant writing efforts
will help your submission go smoothly!
Contact Us!
Office of Proposal Development
75 Kneeland St, Suite 950
Phone: 617-636-2480
Email: proposaldevelopment@tufts.edu
Website: grantwriting.tufts.edu
Twitter: @TuftsOPD
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Constructing a Competitive Multidisciplinary Proposal