Grants Dot Gov Navigating the NIH as a Newbie (and hoping to learn enough to get funded)

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By Nicole Garneau, PhD


I will be completely honest with you, I had no intention of blogging about this trip to Portland for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Regional Seminar. I suspected I would man the Genetics of Taste lab Wednesday morning, fly out of DIA, land in PDX, attend the conference and thus figure out how to get our next round of funding for our research, fly home, write grant and call it a day. Grants aren't exactly a lively blog topic, especially science grants.

Well, I was so wrong (at least I think I was, you'll have to decide for yourself if my NIH experience merited blogging). The 2-day conference has been actually entertaining (in addition to the known quantity of educational) and absolutely worth giving my Blue Tongue Blog audience at least a taste of. How could I not, when Dr. Sally Rockey, acting director of extramural (read: grant) research kicked the first session off with a segment of the Colbert Report. I was immediately won over (video link here for all that are intrigued, if the link doesn't work, goggle or bing "Francis Collins on the Colbert Report").

So, what is the NIH anyway? The NIH (highlighted below in blue) is a division under the large government umbrella of Health and Human Services (HHS).


The acronym NIH stands for the National Institutes of Health, emphasis on Institutes- plural that is (see below). It is a collection of 27 Institutes and centers, each with a unique mission, priorities, budget and funding strategy.


Second row from the bottom, fourth from the left you'll find the National Center for Research Resources or NCRR. It is under this center that our Genetics of Taste: A Flavor for Health grant hails, as a Science Education Partnership Award (SEPA). As the name implies, our grant is not just for traditional bench or clinical science, but rather a true pairing of educational and science resources.

Finally, I learned today that all funded NIH grant titles and abstracts are available online. So you yourself can see just how novel our SEPA project is for example, or you could take a peak at the funding behind something else you might be interested in,  perhaps Alzheimer's or obesity. It's all there. In fact, beyond transparency, the NIH requires authors of scientific articles to make the published papers available a year following publication through the US National Library of Medicine and is actively pushing grant authors to truly write and submit enthusiastic and compelling applications in an effort to make the best and most current scientific studies digestible by more than just the small niche of researchers. So I'll leave you with this final slide from Dr. Rockey, one that as a science communicator I hope researchers take to heart, and one that perhaps you all might also be encouraged by: science research in the United States is a intellectual and economic power that is for the people by the people and therefore open to the people.


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