13-point Aims Page

This is a distillation of 13 key points that should be made in every Specific Aims page.  This was taken from a comment from ‘beaker’ made in reference to an article by physioprof in the grantsmanship section of the drugmonkey blog.  Reproduced here in case the original goes away.

The 13 point aims page. These are partly cribbed from “The Grant Application Writer’s Workbook,” by Stephen W. Russell and David C. Morrison, July 2005 edition.

1. Opening sentence. Must mention the important problem in human health or fundamental biology that your proposal will address. Ideally, the problem will be fundamental and health-relevant, but either one of these two is sufficient.

2. Current knowledge statement. The “knowns” most relevant to this proposal (hat tip: Rummy)

3. The gap. “However, our understanding of blah remains poorly understood…”

4. Justification for why the gap is important enough to fill.

5. Our long-term goal is…. This should be a problem big enough to keep the investigator occupied for a decade, or even a whole career.

6. The objective of THIS application is…. This is the part of the long-term goal that you will be able to solve over the course of this grant’s funding.

7. Our central hypothesis is… This is the thing that all parts of the application must point back to–again and again and again.

8. Rationale why this project can and should be done NOW.

9. Rationale why this project can and should be done by YOU. Why you are “uniquely positioned” to do this work, rather than all of the others writing RO1s to do similar stuff. Better yet: be the only person equipped and positioned to do something really important

10. “Our specific aims are….” Each aim should begin with a good strong action verb and it should be short and sweet, like PhysioProf sez. The second part of each aim (sentence 2) should have a hypothesis that is the smaller part of the central hypothesis tested by that aim. The aims part is 3 X recursive. Ideally, as the Prof said, aim 1 is mostly accomplished already. Aim 2 might not be accomplished, but is a “slam dunk,” The 3rd aim shows your incredible vision and foresight in terms of pushing the envelope–a bit more risky, with potential for higher payoff. Alternatively, disease-based proposals can propose some stuff in aim 3 to move the basic discoveries of aims 1 and 2 towards translation: animal models, clinical studies, etc.

11. Innovation reminder: Toot your horn about how the research proposed is innovate and can “capitalize” on your unique advantage (training and past experience, innovative technique, great preliminary results). This is probably the most dispensable component of the 13, since innovation is “nice when you can justify it”, but few grants get slammed for being “not innovative enough, while plenty of innovative grants get slammed for not being logical or careful or detailed enough, especially if the applicant is a new investigator.

12. “At the end of this study, we will have…” The expected outcome, the payoff as a “deliverable.”

13. “Our studies will enrich science or lead to new understanding and identify novel drug targets, etc… This is the best possible human health benefit that might arise from this research in the LONG RUN. Your specificproject endpoint does not need to produce a cure–it just has to be a new, strong brick in a big construction project.