Whether you are a postdoctoral scholar looking for additional training, a postdoc or clinical fellow looking for a transition grant, or a graduate student looking for a postdoc opportunity, it will be critical for you to understand the different types of funding available to you, guidelines and restrictions for different funding mechanisms, and how to write effective proposals for funding.
For starters, let’s review a few definitions. I found the following distinction between fellowships and grants from the Hamilton College website quite helpful:
Grants typically represent any money given in exchange for a purpose or project.
Fellowships support post-graduate projects and are typically funded by a foundation, institution or other organization to support academic work, research, independent projects or community service activity.
And any fellowship or grant may also be referred to as an award.
WHERE $$ CAN BE FOUND
An outstanding place to look if you are seeking funding is GrantsNet. Funded by Science and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), GrantsNet is a comprehensive database of awards available to individuals and institutions. Using GrantsNet, you can search all awards by educational/experiential level, area of research, deadline dates, keywords, and more. Another useful feature of the site is Express Alerts, where you can sign up to receive weekly email updates listing new awards and fellowships. Take some time to explore this amazing resource.
While GrantsNet will give you a comprehensive list of grants, you may not be eligible to apply for some of them as an NIH intramural graduate student or postdoc. To explore grants and fellowships available to graduate students and postdocs at the NIH, take a look through some of the programs listed under Getting Grants on the OITE website. The two Grants and Fellowships links in this list are compiled by OITE and contain fellowships that might be appropriate for current NIH trainees.
If a particular award appeals to you, read through the rules and regulations for applicants and check in with the Training Director of your IC, as well as with your funding agency, to determine eligibility. If you know of or have applied to a fellowship not listed here, please contact OITE to let us know.
HOW TO GET IT
Once you have found an award that matches your background and criteria, the next step is to craft the best application you can. Be sure to take a grant-writing workshop, either in your IC or with OITE, or both. Past OITE events include “Writing a Research Proposal,” “NIH K99/R00 Grants,” “Demystifying the Grant Review Process,” and “Strategies for Writing Effective Training and Research Plans.” Slides and/or videos for these programs are available by searching OITE Prior Events and using the keyword “grant.” Another outstanding NIH resource is the All about Grants podcast series developed by our colleagues in NIH Extramural. Although you may apply to a variety of funding agencies, much of the information in these workshops and in these podcasts is applicable.
Before submitting your application, share your draft with as many scientists as possible. You should start with your PI, but also consider getting input from other scientists in your lab, collaborators, scientists in your Branch, and colleagues in your field. Of course, you want to send them a polished application, and remember to send it early enough that you can make changes in response to their feedback. You may also sign up for a meeting with the OITE grant consultant who visits the Bethesda campus and “virtually” meets with fellows on other campuses.
You need to appreciate that everyone who reads your grant will have his or her own opinion about it, and it will be up to you to carefully consider the input you receive as you put together the final application. The more people you share your application with, the better your chances of crafting a well-written, compelling proposal. You are writing for experts in your field and scientists peripherally related to your work, so remember to write an application that is accessible to a broad audience.
Using these steps may increase the likelihood of securing funding in your field of interest. Good luck with your search!