Last week I received two different emails in the same day – one from a person who is an established, successful investigator who has major angst over the new, shorter NIH grant format, and another from someone who is thankful for the shorter, more concise format.
I take the side of the second person. I strongly believe that shorter grant proposals are better for everyone. It is less time writing, and less time reading. The story has to be more focused and coherent.
In the old format, it was possible to present a large array of “facts” in an attempt to overwhelm any possible reviewer objection.
The problem with that approach is that this favored those people who have long-established lines of research, and disfavored younger investigators, or those pursuing new lines of research.
With the shorter format, one can’t expect to be convincing based on just an array of great facts and experiments. There isn’t the room for that.
Instead, the grant has to convey a “big picture” that is exciting enough to overcome reviewer doubts. Reviewers will always have doubts (even in the 25 page format).
The grants that do well are those that get reviewers so excited that they suspend disbelief.
That “big picture” aspect of grant writing is strengthened by the new NIH format. This will allow people who have innovative new ideas a better chance at competing.