Interview with Erik N.K. Cressman, MD, PhD, FSIR
Summer 2018 (preview)
SIR Foundation plays a key role in advancing IR through the support of research projects and the development of research programs. As part of that role, SIR Foundation supports a robust portfolio of grant programs designed to benefit researchers at all levels.
To foster their growth, SIR Foundation supported the Investigator Development Task Force (IDTF), a multidisciplinary panel of experts within the foundation’s Grants Committee, initiated and led by Erik Cressman, MD, PhD, FSIR.
After identifying core obstacles facing IR research, the IDTF has proposed a series of strategic solutions such as an initiative to support early IR researchers as they apply for SIR Foundation grants called the proposal development form.
We spoke with Dr. Cressman about the proposal development form and the short- and long-term goals of the IDTF.
Can you tell us what led to the proposal development form?
From feedback we’ve received over the years, we recognized that those submitting grants needed far more guidance. The IDTF created the proposal development form to help those writing grant proposals clarify their thoughts before filling in the details.
How does it help?
Through the proposal development form process, they receive assistance in creating an early draft of what is known as the “aims page” in a proposal. This is the single most important page of a grant application and probably takes about half of the total writing effort. We believe that, with the appropriate guidance, investigators will be able to improve their SIR Foundation grant applications and feel more confident in eventually applying to larger grants such as from the NIH.
How do applicants receive this guidance?
Prospective applicants submitted the proposal development form through the online grant platform at sir.secure-platform.com/a, by the June 15 deadline. After reviewing a submitted form, the chairs of the SIR Foundation Research Grants and Education Division and the Grant Review Committee will assign a mentor (based on the topic and related area of expertise) from a list of experienced scientists from across the country who have NIH-funded labs or success in clinical trials.
Over time the mentor provides feedback on the investigator’s aims page. The applicant submits their improved proposal to the appropriate grant mechanism by the corresponding deadline and the proposal will then go through the typical review process. Although the proposal development form will help applicants develop higher-quality applications for SIR Foundation grants, applicants are not guaranteed SIR Foundation funding.
Without such experienced guidance, it is very difficult to get an aims page right. We expect this input and guidance to greatly strengthen the quality of grant proposal submissions and will ultimately increase the quality of scientific and clinical research, leading to improved patient care.
What is the timeline for proposal development form and grant proposal submission?
For the 2018 grant submission process, applications were due by June 15. That may seem early, but it allows time for the mentor to be identified and for the mentor and applicant to refine the idea, ensuring that the aims page is as clear and compelling as possible. The applicant should work with their assigned mentor to finalize the aims page by sometime in September–November, with the final full grant proposal due on Dec. 14.
Is the proposal development form required for all grant proposals?
Not yet, but it likely will be for the 2019 grant submission process (though probably not for all grant programs). We are working to educate the research community on this new process but we recognize that there will be some people who did not learn about it in time and will be disappointed. However, applicants should keep in mind that it’s not a difficult form to complete and is not a final draft in any case. The point of the form is simply to begin a dialogue with a mentor and refine the proposal from that point forward.
Which SIR Foundation grant applicants are eligible to take advantage of the proposal development form?
Currently we are lining up applicants for the major programs: the Dr. Ernest J. Ring Academic Development Grant, Pilot Research Grant, Allied Scientist Grant and the Academic Transition Grant. We hope to expand the program to the resident research grants in the future and will develop a network of appropriate mentors for that as well.
How can potential applicants learn more about the proposal development form?
More details and links to the proposal development form are available on the corresponding webpages for each eligible grant on the SIR Foundation website, sirfoundation.org.
Is there anything else you would like to tell IRQ readers?
1) Be open to free, experienced, valuable, constructive criticism, 2) keep an eye on the evolution of the program, and 3) plan ahead!