The Researcher's Tool Kit

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Ch-ch-changes (to the NIH biosketch)…

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To paraphrase Bowie, “Turn and face the strain” of an upcoming change to the biosketch format.  Don’t panic if you haven’t started using the new format yet. Use of the enhanced biosketch is restricted to ONLY RFAs included in the pilot.  I’m summarizing this information now to give you a “heads up” about the upcoming changes and a “head start” on tasks to complete so you’ll be ready in seven months when the changes are scheduled to roll out.cropped-cropped-toolkit-24157707-copy.jpg

Per NIH’s Sally Rockey, “the new NIH biosketch emphasizes your accomplishments instead of just a list of publications, which…we questioned as the best way to showcase your scientific contributions. The primary focus of the new NIH biosketch will be the magnitude and significance of the scientific advances associated with a researcher’s discoveries and the specific role the researcher played in those findings. This change will help reviewers evaluate you not by where you’ve published or how many times, but instead by what you’ve accomplished.”

Here’s the skinny on next steps:

  1. May 2014: NIH launched a second round of pilot implementation tests of the modified format. Pilot tests will include surveys of both reviewers and applicants so NIH may tweak application instructions and guidance for reviewers
  2. Late 2014: NIH will update SciENcv to help researchers collect the information needed to generate biosketches using the new format.
  3. Early 2015: NIH is scheduled to roll out the modified biosketch for all grant applications received for FY 2016 funding and beyond (this refers to applications submitted in early 2015).

What exactly is changing?

The new format (SF424R-R_pilot-biosketchsample_VerC) is described on the SF424 (R&R) Applications and Electronic Submission Page.  Changes include:

  • Page length: FIVE (in contrast to 2 or 4 in the traditional formats) pages for the entire biosketch
  • New section C: Contributions supplants Selected Peer-Reviewed Publications. The new section C. asks you to briefly describe up to five of your most significant contributions to science. The description of each contribution should be no longer than one half page including figures and citations. For each of these contributions, you will reference up to four peer-reviewed publications that are relevant to that contribution.

You will also need to provide a URL to a full list of your published work as found in a publicly available digital database such as PubMed or My Bibliography.

What should I do NOW?

Read your RFAs carefully. Explicit instructions will indicate if you are responding to an RFA that is included in the pilot phase for implementation and requires use of the new pilot biosketch format.

Check out SciENcv.  Set up your profile and test it out NOW so the information you need will be readily available when it’s time to pull your biosketch together.

Make sure your PubMed or My Bibliography listings are accurate and current.

Write a draft Section C. Contributions.   Consider the following:

  • What are my most significant contributions to science?
  • For each contribution, ask yourself:  What is the historical background that frames the scientific problem? What are the central finding(s); the influence of the finding(s) on the progress of science or the application of those finding(s) to health or technology? What was your specific role in the described work?



Author: Jeanine Jesberg

Jeanine Jesberg is a grants consultant, Certified Research Administrator (CRA), and licensed clinical speech-language pathologist (CCC-SLP) specializing in work with academic institutions and non-profit organizations. Her multi-faceted career includes several positions, including Program Director, Director of Research Operations, and Executive Director, at the University of Chicago as well as Manager of Research Administration at Northwestern University with knowledge that spans strategic planning, conference planning, program management, budget development, research operations, and research administration. She also has over 15 years of experience as a speech-language pathologist in the roles of clinician, Clinical Instructor, Lecturer, private practice Founder/CEO, and speaker. Jeanine currently lives and works in Chicago, IL.

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