What is a grant?

What is a grant? By definition, a Grant is –

An exercise in persuasive writing 

that conveys your ideas to a funder

to get money to do something

Grants can be for many different things including:

  • Research
  • Clinical practice or service delivery
  • Training, Fellowships, Career Development
  • Education, curriculum development
  • Buildings and Equipment

As a postdoctoral fellow, you are most likely applying either for a Research grant, or some form of training/fellowship/career development grant.

The goal of a grant proposal for RESEARCH is to obtain financial sponsorship for your project

A Research grant proposal is NOT –

  • A research manuscript
  • A review paper
  • A progress report
  • A thesis

Research grants have certain elements in common:

Element Implications for You
Must be responsive to the mission of the funder Know the funder’s mission and goals
Communication is organized according to specific rules Get the directions, read the directions, follow the directions
Presentation must be logical Provide information (what, why, how) where and how reviewers expect to see it
The work must be feasible Demonstrate that it is possible to complete the project within given time frame, budget, available resources, and personnel
Reflect state-of-the-art and best practices in the field Up to date and cutting edge
Must have an impact Must move the field forward in some way or meet the need of the funder

Writing a research grant proposal requires special and sometimes new skills. It will be challenging, and the first time will be the hardest.

Writing a grant forces you to organize your thinking: 

  • Research idea (Specific Aims)
  • How you will execute a project (Approach/Methods)
  • A set period of time and money (Timeline + Budget)
  • Location and resources (Environment)

Scientific grant writing takes practice and skill so you should:

  • Learn about grant writing and other kinds of scientific writing
  • Practice letting others review and comment on your research ideas (and vice versa)
  • Start writing and submitting grants – it’s the only way to truly understand the organization, format and process

The Purpose of the F32 Mechanism

The purpose of the Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award (NRSA) Individual Postdoctoral Fellowship (Parent F32) is to support promising applicants during their mentored postdoctoral training under the guidance of outstanding faculty sponsors.  The integrated program of research and training should enhance the individual’s potential to develop into a productive, independent researcher. The training plan should document the need for, and the anticipated value of, the proposed mentored training in relationship to the individual’s research career goals. The training plan should also facilitate the fellow’s transition to the next stage of his/her career.

It is expected that the mentored training experience will provide:

    • A strong foundation in research design, methods, and analytic techniques appropriate to the proposed research;
    • An enhanced ability to conceptualize and think through research problems with increasing independence;
    • Experience conducting research using appropriate, state-of-the-art methods;
    • The opportunity to present and publish research findings (including first authorship as appropriate) and to interact with members of the scientific community at scientific meetings and workshops;
    • Professional and scientific skills needed to transition to the next stage of the applicant’s research career; and
    • Refinement of the applicant’s understanding of the health-related sciences and the relationship of his/her research to health and disease.

Overview of the F32 Boot Camp


The F32 Boot Camp is a  ‘class’ designed to walk you through all sections of the F32 submission.

As described by NIH, the purpose of the F32 Postdoctoral Fellowship Award is to ‘…support promising applicants during their mentored postdoctoral training under the guidance of outstanding faculty sponsors. The integrated program of research and training should enhance the individual’s potential to develop into a productive, independent researcher.’ But what does it mean to be a ‘promising’ candidate? What are the characteristics of an ‘outstanding’ faculty sponsors? And how do you train to be an ‘independent’ researcher? The goals of this Boot Camp are to describe:

  1. The key elements of an F32 application
  2. What it means to be a ‘promising’ F32 applicant
  3. How to determine if the F32 is the best funding mechanism for you
  4. How to determine which NIH funding institute to apply to
  5. How to identify an outstanding mentoring team, and how to use the mentoring team to shore up weaknesses in the training plan and to enhance independence
  6. How to obtain letters of reference
  7. The components of an excellent training plan
  8. How to get started
  9. Instructions, tips and examples of each section of the application

By the end of this Boot Camp, you should have an F32 proposal ready for submission.

Where to find the active F32 funding announcements

Make sure you have the most current NIH grants information and funding announcements by going to the NIH GRANTS & FUNDING website.

To find the current F32 Program Announcements –

  • Click on the ‘Funding’ tab
  • Select the ‘Research Training and Career Development Programs’
  • From the menu on the right, select the ‘Fellowship Kiosk’
  • Under the F32 options, click ‘View Current Funding Opportunities’

A few points to remember –

  • A Google search of F32 funding announcements may not bring up the current/active program announcements. Make sure you use the site above to fund the correct program announcement
  • Once you open the funding announcement, make sure that the NIH Institute/Center you want to apply to is listed as participating. If a particular Institute/Center is not listed, you can not use the program announcement to apply for the F32.
  • All Institutes/Centers have their own rules and preferences for the F32. You are encouraged to contact the specific Institute/Center to confirm you are eligible, and that it’s the right mechanism for you. 

Timeline for December 8, 2020 F32 Grant Submissions

Starting early and staying on track are critical to having a successful grant submission. Below is a tentative timeline that would allow you to produce multiple drafts of each document, with time to get valuable feedback from collaborators and colleagues.

Monday Oct 19 Drafts of biosketch and aims, outline of training plan
Monday Oct 26 Start Emory routing and Cayuse
Friday Nov 20 Drafts of all documents
Monday Nov 23 Check reference letters
Monday Dec 7 Submit
Tuesday Dec 8 Grant Due Date

Remember – The only date that is a hard deadline is December 8! All other dates are flexible.