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When I was running my research laboratory, one of the biggest responsibilities I had once I had received my first R01, in terms of importance, rather than time, was serving on study sections. We all know how important funding is to a scientific career, and it is fair to say that there is never enough money to go around. The current success rate for NIH R01 proposals is just slightly more than 21%, which means that many good projects go unfunded. Most of the proposals that do get chosen are only selected after resubmission. These stark numbers highlight just how important it is to put the best possible submission in on the first round, and to make sure that the resubmission is fully responsive to the critiques received.

That is why I started providing pre-submission grants reviews as a service here at Clarity in Science Editing and Writing. I recently completed a review for a client who really did everything the right way. He reached out to me some months ago, asking me to review his specific aims page, so that I could provide guidance on the overall direction of the project. He then took the time to generate high-quality preliminary data, a sound hypothesis, and to refine the aims and technical approach.

This month, he sent me the full proposal to review. He really did not need much help with language, and I did not have to revise the text all that much. In fact, the language was so good that the whole review took much less time than usual – only about 6 hours. (I usually tell clients to expect 8-12 hours for a thorough review.) But I did highlight some important things he had overlooked that could have had an adverse impact on his priority score, and asked why he didn’t propose a specific experiment that seemed logical to me. It turned out that he had already done the experiment, but the results were negative – no impact on the factors the study assesses – so he did not include the assay in the proposal. I recommended presenting the preliminary data anyway, citing that as the reason why the technique is not going to be used in the proposed experiments. I believe that the suggestions and revisions will make the proposal stronger, and much more likely to get a good priority score.

If you are working on a grant proposal, consider sending it to Clarity in Science Editing and Writing for a pre-submission review to give your grant the best chance at getting a good priority score. You will be glad you did. And if you are already a funded investigator who has served on study sections and would like to earn a little extra money by reviewing grants, please apply to be a freelance grant reviewer. I would be glad to have your assistance and expertise.

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