How to Use RePORTER When Preparing New Grant Applications

NIH offers two tools that can help you search for projects similar to the one you’re thinking about. In this post, I’ll take you on a quick tour of the NIH RePORTER tool, a repository of information about NIH-funded research projects, and show you how to find information that may be useful to know before you start writing a grant application. A future Feedback Loop post will cover the thesaurus-based search tool called Like This.

Main Query Form

From RePORTER’s Main Query Form, you can search by principal investigator name, project number, organization, text term(s) and many other criteria.

If you want to know which NIH institutes or centers fund projects like yours, or which study section would be most appropriate to review your application, then searching by text term(s) would probably be the best approach.

To find projects in a particular research area, you may start with the “Advanced” text query option, which allows for complex queries using the Boolean operators “and,” “or,” and “not” along with parentheses for nesting phrases. The example below searches for projects on telomeres and their relationship to cancer using wildcards (%) and synonyms to encompass variations such as telomere, telomerase, neoplasm, neoplastic, etc.

Text search box

TIP: One way to limit the number of search results is to use the Funding Mechanism field on the Main Query Form to select the mechanism(s) most relevant to your particular search (e.g., “Research Project Grants” or “Training, Individual”). If you already have a funding mechanism in mind, you can type R01, R21, F33, etc., into that part of the Project Number field.

Once you have entered your search and submitted the query, you’ll get a Project Search Results page, which displays the grant number, project title, principal investigator’s name and organization, NIH funding institute or center, and fiscal year total cost.

Project Information Details Page

To get specific information about a particular project listed on the Project Search Results page, click on its Project number (e.g., GM066228). You’ll get the Project Information Details page that lists the grant’s program official with contact information, the study section that reviewed the application, and the funding opportunity announcement (FOA) to which the application responded.

By viewing the details of projects most relevant to yours, you can begin to get a sense of which program director(s) to contact to discuss your potential application, which study sections review applications like yours, and whether applications in this area typically respond to a parent FOA or a special initiative.

Other Project Information Page Tabs

From the Project Information Details page, you can use the tabs near the top to get to pages with other information relevant to your search. For example, the Description tab takes you to the grant abstract. Reading these can help you become familiar with other funded projects in your interest area and help you identify and highlight what’s unique about your proposal. The Similar Projects and Nearby Projects tabs offer additional ways to find grants related to your search term and to find potential collaborators.

TIP: To refine your original search term on the Main Query Form, use the results from the Similar Projects tab to identify alternative phrases in project titles and abstracts that can increase the effectiveness of your text search.

Data & Visualize Tab

Another feature, available from the Project Search Results page, is a tab called Data & Visualize. This provides a graph of the NIH institutes or centers that administer research in that area and their levels of support. The table next to the bar chart lets you drill down to see projects by funding component.

Data and visualize graph

Comments Welcome

I hope this sampling has introduced you to some useful ways of exploring the NIH-funded research portfolio. We continue to make RePORTER faster, easier to use, and more informative, and we welcome your comments and suggestions, including topics for other RePORTER tutorials. Send them to RePORT@mail.nih.gov or directly to me at onkenj@od.nih.gov.

Meet the NIGMS-Funded PECASE Winners

Each year, NIH institutes and centers nominate outstanding young scientists for the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE), which is the highest honor bestowed by the U.S. government to individuals beginning their independent research careers. The grantees, who must be new investigators in the first year of an R01 or DP2 award, are selected for their innovative research record, potential to continue on this productive route, and community service activities. In recent years, NIH has annually nominated 20 individuals, with approximately 1 or 2 of them being NIGMS grantees.

Photo of Neils Ringstad (top) and Erica Larschan (bottom).

Among this year’s PECASE recipients are two NIGMS grantees, Niels Ringstad of the Skirball Institute of Biomolecular Medicine at New York University School of Medicine and Erica N. Larschan of Brown University. We identified them because of their cutting-edge neuroscience and developmental genetics research, respectively, and their outstanding commitment to education, mentoring and increasing the diversity of the scientific workforce.

Below, they answer questions about their research and PECASE experience and offer advice to other early career scientists.

What does your research focus on?

Neils Ringstad: Our lab studies the simple behaviors of a small roundworm to identify genes that function in chemical signaling in the nervous system. Even though the organism we study, Caenorabditis elegans, has a tiny nervous system with only 302 neurons, these neurons are very similar to the neurons in our brains and use many of the same neurotransmitters to transmit and process information. We’re particularly interested in serotonin signaling pathways, which are important therapeutic targets in psychiatry.

Erica Larschan: We study how genes are precisely targeted for regulation within the highly compact eukaryotic genome. Gene regulation is a fundamental process that is misregulated in many diseases including cancers. We are interested in identifying new proteins that could serve as targets for anti-cancer therapies.

What was it like to come to Washington, D.C., to meet NIH staff, the President and other PECASE recipients?

Ringstad: It was a tremendous honor to be an awardee. We heard a resounding endorsement of basic science and a clear statement of its value to the American people from both the White House and the NIH. That gave me and my group a boost that will last for years.

Larschan: My PECASE visit was one of the most exciting moments of my scientific career. It was a great opportunity to present brand new data from our lab to a broader audience and interact with the other PECASE winners.

What advice would you give to young investigators?

Ringstad: We pick problems to tackle because we see some good in solving them, and we pick them before we know how tough they are to solve. Don’t lose sight of the hopes and expectations that you had for your project before you did your first experiment.

Larschan: The most important piece of advice is to focus on the most exciting and central questions that you can address with your research. It is essential to use many different approaches to rigorously answer the most difficult questions.

NIH Director’s Award Programs Keep ‘Pioneering’ and ‘Innovating’

NIH Director’s Pioneer AwardNIH recently conducted an evaluation of the short-term outcome of the NIH Director Pioneer’s Award program, which started in 2004 and is managed by NIGMS. The report was positive and confirmed that the research supported by the program truly has been pioneering, not only in pursuing highly creative and often unconventional approaches but also in leading to additional “high-risk, high-reward” programs at NIH and other funding agencies.

We hope to see many more highly innovative ideas submitted for the next Pioneer Award application cycle that is now under way. Applications are due October 7, 2011.

NIH Director’s New Innovator Award

The NIH Director’s New Innovator Award program, also managed by NIGMS, is accepting applications until October 14, 2011. This program is designed for early stage investigators at U.S. institutions who have not yet obtained an NIH R01 or similar grant.

For more information and links to the requests for applications, see the Pioneer Award Web site and the New Innovator Award Web site.

As I’ve written before, one of my favorite elements of these programs is the annual symposium, scheduled this year for September 20-21 at the Doubletree Bethesda Hotel near the NIH campus. The meeting is free and doesn’t require registration, so if you’re in the area, I encourage you to join us for talks and poster sessions by Pioneer and New Innovator awardees. If you can’t make it in person, you can view the platform presentations after the meeting on the NIH Videocast site.

Earlier Submission Deadlines for 2011 Pioneer and New Innovator Awards

NIH Director’s Pioneer AwardNIH has announced the 2011 competitions for the NIH Director’s Pioneer Awards and the NIH Director’s New Innovator Awards. These awards support exceptionally creative scientists who propose highly innovative—and often unconventional—approaches to major challenges in biomedical or behavioral research. Both programs are part of the NIH Common Fund and are managed by NIGMS.

The Pioneer Award provides $2.5 million in direct costs over 5 years and is open to scientists at U.S. institutions at any career level. The deadline for applying is September 13, 2010.

NIH Director’s New Innovator Award

The New Innovator Award provides $1.5 million in direct costs over 5 years and is designed for early stage investigators at U.S. institutions who have not yet obtained an NIH R01 or similar grant. Applications are due by September 20, 2010.

For more information about the programs and links to the requests for applications, see the Pioneer Award Web site and the New Innovator Award Web site.

A highlight of these programs is the annual symposium. This year’s symposium will take place near the NIH campus in Bethesda on September 30 and October 1, and it will include research talks by the second graduating class of Pioneer Award recipients. If you’re in the area, consider attending the symposium. It’s free, doesn’t require advance registration and also offers the opportunity to view poster presentations by many of the Pioneers and New Innovators. If you can’t attend, the symposium will be videocast live and archived at http://videocast.nih.gov.

Now Seeking Applications for Next Year’s “Pioneers” and “New Innovators”

NIH Director’s Pioneer AwardNIH has announced the 2010 competitions for the NIH Director’s Pioneer Awards and the NIH Director’s New Innovator Awards. These awards support exceptionally creative scientists who propose highly innovative—and often unconventional—approaches to major challenges in biomedical or behavioral research. Both programs are part of the NIH Roadmap for Medical Research and are managed by NIGMS.

The Pioneer Award provides $2.5 million in direct costs over five years and is open to scientists at U.S. institutions at any career level. The deadline for applying is October 20, 2009.

NIH Director’s New Innovator AwardThe New Innovator Award provides $1.5 million in direct costs over five years and is designed for early stage investigators at U.S. institutions who have not yet obtained an NIH R01 or similar grant. Applications are due by October 27, 2009.

For more information about the programs and links to the requests for applications, see the Pioneer Award Web site and the New Innovator Award Web site.

One of the features of these programs that I find most exciting is the annual symposium. This year’s symposium will take place on the NIH campus in Bethesda on September 24 and 25 and will include research talks by the first graduating class of Pioneer Award recipients and by the class of 2008. The 2009 award recipients will also be announced. The symposium will be videocast live and archived at http://videocast.nih.gov.