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Inside Tips on NIH Funding

Former National Institute of General Medical Sciences Director Jeremy Berg shares some advice on obtaining grants from the US National Institutes of Health and more in a two-part interview with Paul Knoepfler at the Knoepfler Lab Stem Cell Blog.

Berg, who left NIGMS last year to join the University of Pittsburgh as a faculty member in the Department of Computational and Systems Biology shares some tips on submitting grants in part one of the interview, noting that "applicants cannot afford to submit applications that have avoidable flaws."

He describes the NIH funding system as a meritocracy, but notes that there are some "caveats."

For example, "comparing an application from an established well-funded investigator with one from a starting assistant professor is no simple matter" because the more experienced investigator will have "considerable preliminary data and have a track record to relieve many concerns about the feasibility of the proposed project whereas the starting assistant professor will have fewer preliminary data and a shorter track record, but may have a more creative idea."

When faced with budget cuts, NIGMS "felt that it was better to fund more applications rather than to fund applications at the full requested level" because "having more laboratories and projects active seemed to us to be a better strategy," Berg says.

In part two, he weighs in on the sequestration threat to the NIH budget, noting that 80 percent of the NIH budget is already committed to ongoing grants and fixed costs, so a projected 8.2 percent cut due to sequestration would be taken out of the remaining 20 of the budget available for new and competing grants, which corresponds to a 41 percent cut for these grants.

Berg says it's "crucial that the scientific community work hard and effectively to communicate the impact of continued sub-inflationary increases in the NIH budget will have on scientific medical program and American scientific leadership and competitiveness."

HT: Writedit at the Medical Writing, Editing & Grantsmanship blog

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