So, you want to embark on a K99/R00 Pathway to Independence Award application! Great decision! Even if you don’t get the award, it can be an incredible exercise in grant writing and decision making for future career choices– totally worth taking the time to do! To help you along the way, I’ve compiled a list into a structured timeline to help you understand how much time is needed to organize and complete this process.
Note: I do not not over estimated these dates and I am assuming that you can spend 80-90% of your time (at least 9 hours per day) working on solely on the grant during this period of time. If you aren’t able to put that kind of time into this, you may want to adjust the schedule to account for more time before your intended deadline.
Deadlines for new K99 grants are: (1) Feb 12; (2) June 12; and (3) Oct 12
4-6 months before the deadline
Attend university events that provide background info on NIH funding and strategies – this can be through postdoc associations.
Find mentors to be on your career advisory team
Reach out to local, distinguished professors who have proven track records for mentoring phd students and postdocs toward faculty careers – your mentors must have expertise that is critical to the research you propose- you will need to explicitly state this in your research proposal!
Discuss your research ideas with your mentors- they know the field and they understand what is likely to be funded
Get successful examples of K99 or other NIH funded grant proposals — having successful templates is crucial to your success- ask around in peer networks, your mentors or the university grant office for templates or examples of past funded projects. Look up past projects that were funded at your host institute: NIH reporter link & there are a number of useful blogs and websites to read and research, but having a funded proposal goes a lot further
Get to know the scientific field/area of your proposed project
Start collecting key papers, reviews and recently funded NIH grants that pertain to the work you are thinking of proposing – you want to make sure that what you plan to do is timely, appropriate, and worth funding (from NIH’s perspective). Look at google scholar over the past year for the number of papers published with similar key words describing your proposed project- what kind of journals is this work published in and what kind of citation counts does it attain?
Gain a basic understanding of the submission process and how to structure your proposal to make it easy on your primary, secondary and tertiary reviewers. — a great description of the review process is found here: K99 grant writing link. There are a number of great resources online that describe the basics of grant funding: relationships between funding institutes and study groups, what the typical stages of a review panel look like, etc.
Get to know your potential funding agency! This one is important to stress. You can get a great idea of what kind of research is already on the agenda of a funding institute by reading up on their program overviews (example: NHGRI funding mission). Some may even have a “strategic plan” laid out, which will be extremely essential to helping you formulate your significance and innovation sections in the proposal: NHGRI strategic plan. It can be helpful to reach out to people (calling can be best) within each of these funding agencies to talk to them about whether your proposal is something they would be interested in (be ready to provide a short abstract/summary). Its also important to note that different funding agencies have different rates of success. If your planned project could be funded by various institutes, its worthwhile to take a look at K99 success rates relative to the institutes your thinking about writing for. Below is a graph % success (number of accepted K99 proposals/number of total K99 proposals submitted in that category/institute).
In short, you may decide to frame your proposal to fit an institute that may have higher rates of success (less total submitted proposals of that category)
NCI (purple)- NIGMS (orange) – NHGRI (teal) – Total (green)
Read all instructions and information linked to your POA (note: this number updates yearly)
Create a K99/R00 checklist, similar to this one: evernote k99 checklist
create a K99/R00 timeline based on the above checklist using google calendar
Generate as much preliminary data that you can for backing up your claims and hypotheses that will support your proposed project.
2-3 months before the deadline
Register and fill out your PI profile on NIH’s e-commons : https://commons.era.nih.gov/
BEGIN writing the main parts: research strategy and career statements — its extremely important to have time to take space, mull over, and come back to your proposal drafts- for this reason, start writing early! You should be able to give yourself at least 2 week-long breaks while writing the research strategy
Accumulate projected costs and expenses in an excel spreadsheet for proposed work
Get a basic understanding of indirect vs direct cost rates for creating a budget: Youtube link: Indirect Costs 101. NOTE: you will need to include IDC rates, MTDC and F&A reference numbers for your specific university, and who they negotiated these numbers with
1-2 months before the deadline
Ask for letters of support (LOS; generally initially drafted by the candidate) to mentors for their editing and approval
Ask for a letter of support from the chair of the department of the host institute — this generally states that the university fully supports candidature, will allow the candidate to devote 100% of his/her time to research, etc.
Ask for mentors’ biosketches (specific to NIH, and requires the 2015 updated version) and current and pending support information
Ask for a PI exception (this is not for NIH, but more a formality for the university)
Ask 3-5 referees to write letters of recommendation (LOR) for the candidate. NIH info link: how to submit LOR. Note: it can be useful to give referee’s a deadline that is 2 weeks before the grant is due so you don’t have to stress about their letters when its crunch time!
Ask mentors if they have example write-ups for NIH “facilities and other resources” and “equipment” that you can use in your grant — this will provide you details of all the office space, bench workspace, lab space, computers, university facilities, etc. that you will have access to use during your proposed project
Reach out to friends, colleagues and other peers to discuss and read through your proposal draft(s)
Start writing the “Other” parts of the grant — They may seem small (compared to the main parts of the grant) and things that can be left to the end, but the other parts of the grant (i.e. narrative, project summary, training in responsible research conduct, etc.) can take a good amount of time to put together and are very important (and, in the case of the narrative and summary- visible to everyone once accepted!) — don’t leave to the last minute!
Reach out to your university’s grants submission office to get in contact with the actual person who will be submitting this grant for you — it can be extremely helpful to set a “date” for submitting the actual grant via google calendar- invite this person (if they’re amenable) to having it on their calendar. IMPORTANT: set a date to actually submit the grant which is (at best) 2 weeks before the actual due date but (in the worst case) one week before the due date of the grant
2-3 weeks before the deadline
Check in with your referees if they haven’t submitted your LOR – have them forward the automated email NIH sends once they submit their letter- that way, you keep the confirmation number in case you need to resubmit the proposal in the future
Make sure you have all documents that require other people’s input in hand:
- LOS from mentors/collaborators
- LOR from referees
- LOS from the institute (chair of department)
- PI exception
- biosketches of mentor(s)
- current and pending support information of mentor(s)
Put all the names, departments, emails, contact info of referees together to submit as a cover letter in the final grant submission
1-3 months AFTER the deadline
Reap the benefits of a new perspective on your career track
PUBLISH as much as you can to support your work in case you need to resubmit or can tackle the “just-in-time” deadline for updating your proposal
You have an opportunity to update your publication record one month before the panel meets and around three months after you submit the grant