What You Need to Know About Writing RO1 Grants

The Importance of writing a successful grant

For most academic life science researchers, writing a successful NIH R01 grant (or a grant
equivalent in size) is essential to running a successful laboratory and research
program. These awards are typically of five-year duration, up to $250,000/year, and
are used to support the costs of equipment, supplies, personnel, travel, and other
expenditures. The R01 funding mechanism is the common award bestowed by the
NIH, with 30,106 R01-equivalent grants in 2017 (slightly up from 28,970, in 2016).

Grant Writing

Indirect  benefits of grant approval 

Fairly or unfairly, in addition to publication history, grant funding remains a primary metric for evaluating an investigator’s research success, and is often used
to determine decisions such as tenure, affiliation in clinical centers, and honors in professional associations (e.g., the American Association for Cancer Research, American Society for Cell Biology, etc.). Despite this urgency, success rates have
remained less than 20%. Thus writing R01 grants, that are well received by reviewers, and successfully funded, is essential to your success.

Whats different in writing an R01 Grant 

Unlike smaller grant applications (R03, R21), R01 proposals are allowed to be up
to 12-pages in length, with 0.5-inch all-around margins, and generally require
preliminary data. However, it is imperative that the data you include is relevant to
the proposed work.

Research Grant Writing Work Flow

Based on that data, you can then formulate your hypothesis, which should be limited to one sentence and placed in bold text. I would then suggest writing the specific aims page and the project summary (i.e., abstract); this sequencing facilitates writing the research plan.  A typical R01 has three specific aims. Each aim should be 2-3 pages, and should describe expected results and contingencies for unexpected results. 

Lastly, I would recommend using the remaining space (of the 12 pages) for the significance section, which should be tailored to the project at hand. If the total length amounts to less than 12 pages, that
is fine also. Preparation should start at least one month before the deadline- longer is better. For my other suggestions on how to write a successful grant please visit my 4 step guide. 

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