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Applying for Large Grants

Posted on January 27, 2012

David Shurtleff (bio) examines why and when a researcher should pursue a center grant.


So you're asking about applying for large, multi-project grants like a center grant, a program project grant. For early career investigators, of course, I would advise against leading such an effort at that stage of their career. It's very complicated, it requires a lot of effort, a lot of time managing, that's time away from doing your research, and as an early career investigator you really need to be in the lab generating research and publishing papers to accelerate your career.

If you are, though, in a position at some point in the future to generate a multi-project grant like a center grant or a program project, there's a lot of things to consider in terms of why would you use that mechanism relative to just, say, the standard R01? Is there something about the research question you're asking? Is it something about the fact that you need a multi-disciplinary team around a particular theme that requires a complex mechanism like a program project or a center grant?

And again it gets back to finding the right collaborators, asking the right question. Is there synergy among the team? Is the whole greater than the sum of its parts kind of thing is one question you would ask in terms of developing. Is it really thematic? Is there a reason you want to bring this group together to solve a complex problem? What would that be?

Of course, then you would have to talk to NIH program staff because typically these grants are over $500,000 direct costs per year, and once you reach that threshold, the $500,000 direct costs per year, you need NIH approval to actually submit the application. Because of the amount of money involved it requires a higher bar and more contact with programs to actually get that approval before you can submit the application.

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Excerpted from an interview with the researcher conducted at the 2011 NHSN Conference held in Miami, FL.


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