The NIH Biosketch section on Research Support

September 9, 2010

A little reminder and clarification since this seems to be confusing to some at first introduction to the NIH system.
First, from the Biosketch sample (doc):

List both selected ongoing and completed research projects for the past three years (Federal or non-Federally-supported). Begin with the projects that are most relevant to the research proposed in the application. Briefly indicate the overall goals of the projects and responsibilities of the key person identified on the Biographical Sketch. Do not include number of person months or direct costs.

Note that use of the term “selected”?
The 424 Guide makes it even clearer:

Don’t confuse “Research Support” with “Other Support.” Though they sound similar, these parts of the application are very different. As part of the biosketch section of the application, “Research Support” highlights your accomplishments, and those of your colleagues, as scientists. This information will be used by the reviewers in the assessment of each individual’s qualifications for a specific role in the proposed project, as well as to evaluate the overall qualifications of the research team. In contrast, “Other Support” information is required for all applications that are selected to receive grant awards. NIH staff will request complete and up-to-date “other support” information from you after peer review. This information will be used to check that the proposed research has not already been Federally-funded.

Conceptually this portion of the Biosketch should be viewed as your chance to make a selective case in favor of your application. A highly selective one may be most appropriate. It is most emphatically not demanding that you put your worst foot forward or make the record complete with respect to all of your funding. Program will check up on that prior to making the award.
To put an even finer point on it, the amount of grant money you have on hand is not a concern of the reviewers. They are not supposed to be deciding if you have too much money. All they are supposed to be deciding from this section of the Biosketch is if there is evidence that you can run a research project of a similar scope to what your are proposing.
Given that, you are simply using this to show them that you have the chops. Show that you have had a track record of funding, any funding. Preferably funding similar to that for which you are applying (say, a 5-yr full modular NIH R01) but it is not a death knell if you have not.
Not necessarily relevant to the newer folks but once you have a bit of a funding record it is important to remember that you are not *obligated* to put down everything. This gets tricky, because of course anyone can think they are supposed to be reviewing all of your funding and get snippy about you not listing everything. So for the most part I’ve played this straight up and listed everything that I have currently funded. But I’d have no compunction about not listing everything if I thought it was in my strategic interest. Any thought that this section requires completeness is a misconception.

4 Responses to “The NIH Biosketch section on Research Support”

  1. Hatcher Says:

    This is the most useful info I have ever received from a blog, thanks.


  2. stephen Says:

    Here is my biosketch hoping that many, included NIH Reviewers, would take it as a humble example of how to succeed.


  3. Jim Says:

    Just Curious – If this is true, why does the Sample biosketch form linked in the SF424-RR Guide, Page I-71, “See the sample of a completed Biographical Sketch.” not show the Research Support written as such? On their sample, they simply list the Ongoing and Completed projects of the PI whose biosketch they show.


  4. DrugMonkey Says:

    Can anyone figure out what is being asked by Jim here? What is “as such” supposed to mean if not the list of ongoing and completed projects?
    if by “make a case” you think I am saying that you can put in some extended narrative, not so. Listing the awards is what makes your case.


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