NIH R01 Grant Help

Your research plan doesn’t have to be dead on arrival because you didn’t know the finer points of grantwriting and presenting your ideas persuasively.

Tom Hollon, PhD 

Hi, I’m Tom Hollon. Since 2003 I’ve worked with scientists who need grants so they can get back to doing the research they love. I’ve helped clients win more than $19 million in grants and contracts.

I can help you highlight why your work is significance and innovative and remove common research plan mistakes so reviewers never see them. You can’t be penalized for mistakes they can’t find.

Whether you’re applying for the first time or resubmitting, when you make it easier for reviewers to understand why your research is exciting and take away mistakes in presentation that will give them cause to doubt your ability to succeed, your score can only go one place — up. You’ll have a much better chance to score within payline.

If you’re reading this, you probably have a limited number of months before your current funding runs out.

And you wonder, would getting help with your R01 application reduce the stress and pressure you’re under and boost your chances to win — or would it just be a waste of time and money?

Keep reading, and I’ll try to help you decide.

Fine-Tuning Your R01 Research Plan to Maximize Your Score

NIH instructs R01 grant reviewers to use a 9-point scale to score Overall Impact, Significance, Innovation, Approach, Investigators, and Environment according to the balance of their strengths and weaknesses.

Strengths are those things in your research plan that build reviewers’ confidence your project is important and will succeed and strongly move science ahead.

Weaknesses cause reviewers to doubt your project is important or will succeed.

A winning score requires you to convincingly explain your experimental strategy (without dwelling on protocol minutiae) for solving an important scientific problem. You must be concise, comprehensive and compelling, all at the same time. No wonder R01s are so incredibly difficult to write! And it’s even more difficult since NIH cut the page limit to half of what it used to be.

So how can you be sure, when you’ve worked and slaved on your plan for so long that your eyes start glazing over, that it really is as persuasive as possible — getting straight to the point about why your work is important, why it’s innovative, and why the odds are high you’ll succeed?

If you’re lucky, before you submit you can have some of your colleagues comb through your research plan line by line, looking for every way possible to make your strengths clearer and easier for reviewers to notice; and have them point out every weakness that can be corrected before deadline.

If you’re not so fortunate and your colleagues can’t be so generous, you can get help here.

Here’s What I Offer:

If you’re in the last month before submission, I offer a two-part service help you maximize your research plan score:

Part 1: Analysis of Strengths and Weaknesses

I will analyze your research plan to identify:

  • where it can be made stronger, clearer, more direct and convincing; and
  • where there are weaknesses to eliminate before the submission deadline arrives and it’s too late.

I’ll get under the hood with your research plan, carefully going over everything you’ve written: title, abstract, specific aims, significance, innovation, preliminary data, approach, biosketch, figures and tables, the works. If you’re reapplying, I’ll study your Summary Statement from last time and your Introduction for resubmitting. If you have extra sections such as describing protections for human subjects, I’ll study those too.

Part 2: Improvements and Fine-Tuning to Maximize your Score

  • After the analysis of Part 1 I’ll work with you to fine-tune how your research plan presents your ideas so your strengths are clearly expressed and placed where they’ll be noticed early.
  • Then we’ll work on eliminating weaknesses, because you can’t be penalized for weaknesses reviewers can’t find.

The result will be a research plan with your best chance to score within payline strengths honed and gleaming, weaknesses weeded out — the very best you have to offer.

Who Can This Service Help?

  • Researchers better at research than writing, who worry their words don’t do their ideas justice
  • Scientists concerned their research plan isn’t as strong as it could be, but not sure what to do about it
  • Scientists with no colleague or mentor willing to spend hours combing their research plan page by page and line by line for every possible defect
  • Researchers trying to shoehorn research plans into NIH’s short page limits
  • Successful grant winners who want every possible edge against the competition
  • Researchers for whom English is a second language

Things You Get With This Service Include:

  • Editing more persuasion into fewer words. I can almost always reduce a research plan by 5 – 10% without sacrificing accuracy, so fitting the page limit becomes easier. It can be like getting an extra half-page or page to explain your work.
  • Highlighting significance and originality. The stress and pressure of grant writing can make it hard to find words to do your work justice. I can help you state the significance of your work and innovations strongly and clearly.
  • Removing research plan weaknesses.  By bringing fresh eyes and knowledge of the review process to your research plan, I can help you find and remove weaknesses reviewers will otherwise surely attack.
  • Summary Statement analysis. I can help you read between the lines to understand what reviewers really mean so you can resubmit and win.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. How will I know your service is working?

A. You’ll know very easily, because you’ll be able to compare each section of your research plan to how it was before working with me and how it is after.  And if you don’t feel my help is making your research plan more persuasive, you don’t owe anything (see my Money-back Guarantee below).

Q. Do you have a scientific background?

A. I have a PhD in microbiology and I did postdoctoral work at the Pasteur Institute in Paris and at NIH in Bethesda. In 1998 I started a science magazine for the American Chemical Society and I’ve been a writer, editor, and consultant ever since.

I’ve helped clients with grants and contract proposals since 2003. My first success was writing a proteomics grant for a client that reviewers ranked in the top 15 out of 120 applications. It was funded for $2 million.

What this means is I will understand and sympathize with the challenges you face. You can talk to me scientist-to-scientist about your research, grant application, and career goals.

Q. How can you help me emphasize strengths and remove weaknesses in my research plan if you’re not a specialist in my field?

A. In helping scientists emphasize the importance and novelty of their research, I usually draw on my experience as science magazine editor and journalist more than my research experience in molecular biology. I have a keen sense of when something important can make an even stronger impact on reviewers if it’s rephrased or moved to a different part of the research plan.

As for fixing weaknesses, I probably will not be qualified to judge the technical details of your experiments, so we’ll discuss finding people who are qualified to do that for you. (NOTE: If you have an interdisciplinary project, you need someone of genuine expertise for the discipline you’re weakest in; otherwise a technical mistake you cannot catch on your own may ruin your grant with an Approach section score of 4 or worse.)

Beyond this, there are many common flaws in research plans regardless of discipline, and here I can definitely help you find and fix mistakes in how you present your ideas.

For example, if you overlook describing key controls, or alternative experimental approaches, or explaining how you can interpret your data critically, or what you’ll do if a hypothesis fails, I’ll probably notice right away and warn you.

Q. Do you help clients with grants other than NIH R01s?

A. I advise scientists and science companies on all sorts of NIH grants, NIH contract proposals, NSF grants, SBIR grants and grant applications to other federal agencies. You can ask me about my availability by email. Generally, I’ll be booked well in advance of your grant deadline, so ask early.

Q. How is this service different from your Mastering NIH R01 Grantsmanship program?

A. This service offers short-term help to an individual researcher in the final run-up to the R01 application deadline. My aim will be to make your R01 research plan as persuasive as possible so you get the best possible score. If your grantsmanship improves as a result of working with me, that’s great, but teaching won’t be my focus.

In contrast, the Mastering NIH R01 Grantsmanship Program offers long-term grant help to scientists participating in a group program. Participants receive grantsmanship training and — to make sure the training sticks — also get in-depth consulting over a long period to help them prepare a winning application.

Invitation to a Free NIH R01 Grant Strategy Session

To consider getting help to maximize your chance of being funded, let me offer you a free one-hour NIH R01 Grant Strategy Session to discuss your needs and whether my help is right for you.

To set up a free strategy session, click on the button at the bottom, which will take you to an appointment page with some general questions about your R01 research plan situation.

Your answers will help me help you in two ways.

First, so we spend less time speaking generally and more time on how you can be helped, your answers will help me understand the specifics we should discuss about your grant.

Second, your answers will help me understand whether we may be a good fit to work together. If we don’t seem to be a good fit, then I’ll let you know by email and explain my reasoning.

What happens after the Strategy Session? At the end of the strategy session, if you feel my help is right for you, then we can discuss the price, my guarantee, and when to begin working together. You can then hire me immediately or think it over for a day or two. Whatever feels right for you.

Money-Back Guarantee

I offer you this guarantee so trying my services places the risk on my shoulders rather than yours:

If you don’t believe the advice you’re receiving is making your R01 research plan more persuasive, simply agree not to use the advice you’ve been given when you submit your application to NIH and I’ll send your money back in full. 

So, Are You Interested?

Then click here to get a free NIH R01 grant strategy session.

May you always score above payline,

Tom Hollon, PhD



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