Crossing T’s and Dotting I’s: A Lesson in Education

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Securing research, scholarship, and foundations funding has become even more competitive. Today, even innovative ideas and rigorous study design may not be enough to get us over the mark in the eyes of grant reviewers. However, reviewers, administrators, and Principal Investigators (PIs) alike can agree that understanding and adhering to the funding guidelines is an essential part of a successful application.

In April, news of over 70  rejected Upward Bound applications infuriated educators, administrators, and politicians. These applications were rejected mainly due to violations of the formatting rules such as incorrect paragraph spacing, font size, margin width, and exceeding the page limit requirements stated in the application guidelines. The rejection rate was only five percent of all submitted applications to Upward Bound, but 80 percent of grant application rejections are due to non-conformance to funding requirements. Even experienced research grant writers and administrators are prone to error due to the complex nature or the Funding Opportunity Announcements and supplementary guidelines themselves. For example, limiting your response to the

Although I would not consider the Department of Education (DOE) example a trend, I do believe  that the combination of increased competitiveness in all areas of funding along with stretched resources (both at the grantee and grantor levels) create an atmosphere for increased scrutiny of applications based on seemingly superficial errors. One way of minimizing these errors is by requesting a formal review of your application.  In the School of Nursing, internal reviews and editorial consultations can be requested through the Office for Science and Innovation and are recommended for faculty submitting research proposals.

What the Upward Bound grant application fiasco also highlighted was the power of congressional outrage. Over 79 congressional representatives successfully lobbied the DOE to reconsider the rejected applications in a show of bipartisan support. While the FY’18 budget was only released in May, it is important to remember that the National Institutes of Health received substantial funding increases in the FY’17 funding bill and many federally funded areas such the NIH, National Science Foundation, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and National Endowment for the Arts, have support from Congress.

With uncertainty over the future of federal research funding, a new level of funding application scrutiny can be expected. As Johns Hopkins School of Nursing (JHSON) faculty and staff continue to set their sights on expanding our reach and research, it is important to understand the grant review process. At the NIH, the review process is consistent for most Parent Announcements throughout the grant life-cycle. Getting through the review process successfully hinges on application compliance – only those applications compliant with all the guidelines are assigned to the review group for consideration.

There are multiple resources at JHSON, such as the Sponsored Projects Office and the Office for Science and Innovation, which assist faculty with understanding grant guidelines and application standards.

The Office for Science and Innovation facilitates internal and external services such as editorial reviews, internal reviews and other grant writing and research support. Contact SON-Innvation@jhu.edu for more information.

 

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