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Advice to Early Career Applicants

Posted on January 27, 2012

David Shurtleff (bio) provides advice for early career researchers seeking NIH funding.

 

So what is some advice I can give to early career applicants applying to the NIH? I think for any applicant, the most important thing they need to do -- and if it's one thing you remember from all of this -- is to contact a program official at the NIH. And the reason for that is because NIH is a very complicated place and there are a lot of funding mechanisms that are available to you.

The program official is the person who really keeps track of many of those funding mechanisms -- how they're used, how they're reviewed in study section at the NIH. They also can sort of pinpoint the right funding mechanism for your point in your career, which is very useful. And, in addition, they can also advise you on the science, the research that the funding agency, in my case the National Institute on Drug Abuse, is interested in.

They can tell you sort of where the gaps in opportunities are in the research the agency is supporting so that when you do apply you are applying in an area that... you are not only applying in the right mechanism, right funding mechanism, but you're also applying in an area of research that is of interest to the agency and it's important that you know that up front so that you have this dialog between you as the researcher and a program official.

It's particularly important if you're starting out in an early career because the NIH can be daunting, to get through the process can be somewhat intimidating, and having somebody on the inside that can really navigate and help you through the process is critical.

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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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