IPPH Funding – Tips and Frequently Asked Questions

Writing a Winning Grant Application

On June 29th, 2011 during an IPPH-hosted webinar on applying to the CIHR Open Operating Grant Program (OOGP), invited guest Dr. Patricia O’Campo provided helpful points to consider for writing a grant application. Dr. O’Campo is the Director of the Centre for Research on Inner City Health at St. Michael's Hospital and a Professor at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health Sciences. She also has experience as a CIHR peer reviewer and is a former chair of a CIHR peer review committee. Needless to say, Dr. O’Campo has spent many hours preparing grant applications given her broad research interests and academic background. Her “10 good practices for writing a winning application” have been adapted to provide some general guidance for applying to CIHR grants.

  1. Take plenty of time to write up the proposal to ensure effective communication of your ideas. It can take approximately six (6) months to write a very good proposal.
    • Writing the proposal means developing each of the sections in parallel and iteratively
    • Use clear language that scientists from any discipline can understand
  2. Clearly state the significance and innovative potential of your grant.
    • Don’t be shy about stating it a few times in a few different ways. Often the reader is not an expert in your specific area
    • Include a summary paragraph highlighting gaps and stating just how the research proposed in your application fills those gaps
  3. Choose a research project that you are excited about. Let your enthusiasm come through as you write up your grant.
    • Grant reviewers appreciate exciting materials to read
  4. Be sure to communicate the expertise and experience of the Nominated Principal Applicant and all team members (i.e., brag).
    • Describe expertise of team in the body of the proposal
    • Ensure each CIHR CV is updated and complete
    • Ensure that the “most significant accomplishments” section of the CV is up to date and clearly communicates accomplishments and expertise
      • Don’t just list out articles that have been highly referenced, provide context to someone reading the CV as a whole
  5. Ensure that you have the right research team composition.
    • Bring on expert co-investigators or use consultants as needed
  6. Ensure that your methods are sound and completely described including participant recruitment methods, anticipated response/loss to follow up rates/statistical power, etc. that are in line with your research questions.
    • Provide justification for your approach
  7. Consider the timeline and budget early on in the process. Fully justify your budget. Ensure that your grant is not too ambitious.
  8. Pay attention to all the “small parts” of the grant application.
    • Abstract/lay abstract, one-page description
    • Some committee members pay attention to and raise questions based upon these sections
  9. Complete your grant application early and have experienced researchers review and provide feedback well before submitting.
  10. For resubmission be very responsive to the reviewers’ comments.

We would like to hear your best tips for writing a grant application! To submit your tips, or to get more information on Dr. O’Campo’s strategies, please e-mail IPPH at ipph-ispp@uottawa.ca.

Open Operating Grant Program

  1. Consider applying to the CIHR Open Operating Grant Program! Approximately 55% of CIHR’s grants and awards budget is allocated to the Open Operating Grant Program. Competitions are held twice per year.
  2. When applying to the CIHR Open Operating Grant Program, be sure to review all Priority Announcements to see if there is a fit between them and your research proposal.
  3. Review the peer review committee mandates and past peer review committee membership on the CIHR website prior to selecting your suggested peer review committee(s).
  4. CIHR accepts renewal applications to renew funding of a currently-held CIHR open operating grant to continue the same line of investigation. To learn more about renewals, please see section 1C of the Grants and Awards Guide.
  5. Research summaries provided at the time of application registration are used to help assign applications to a peer review committee and to determine which peer reviewers have the level of expertise required to review applications. Give careful consideration to what you want to convey in the summary about your research questions, research design, theoretical and methodological approach. Use key words that indicate what expertise you consider to be essential for the review of your application (e.g. population health interventions, comparative case study, mixed methods design).
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