Basics in Grantsmanship and Ethical Conduct of Research

Course ID: 
MIR 510

Course description:  This is an introductory level course for graduate students in the biomedical sciences covering grantsmanship.  The course is taught by faculty in the RPCI Immunology Department and the Biostatistics and Bioinformatics Department, Assistant Dean of Education, and the Director of Grants & Foundations Office.  The goals are to provide predoctoral students with the toolbox of skills necessary for the preparation of competitive fellowship grant applications. 

-       Part 1 (Fall semester, 1 credit) includes didactic lectures on the nuts-and-bolts of grant writing including:  the anatomy of a scientific research grant; techniques in effective grant writing, the peer-review process for federal grant applications, scientific rigor and reproducibility, statistical analysis of research data, and issues surrounding ethical conduct in research.    

-       Part 2 (Spring, non-credit) will be administered by individual programs.  RPCI Immunology students will be required to submit a Specific Aims page and Significance/Innovation sections for their QE proposal to obtain critical feedback from the Grantsmanship faculty.  These components of the QE proposal will be developed and approved by the mentor and dissertation committee prior to submission for the course.  The mentors of students taking the QE in a given year will be required to ‘register’ for the course and participate in peer-review of the draft proposals for other students going through the QE process. Feedback from faculty will focus on how well the student presents the key elements common to any Aim’s page:  significance, fundamental gap in knowledge, central hypothesis and rationale for proposed aims.

Rationale:  This course will provide necessary grantwriting experience and guidelines for graduate students in the Immunology program and other departments to facilitate fulfillment of the research proposal requirement of the qualifying exam in the second year of their program.  Additionally, it will improve the competitiveness of pre-doctoral fellowship submissions and provide training in ethical conduct for preparation of grant applications and peer review.

Course faculty:  Sharon Evans, Ph.D. (Course coordinator),  Scott Abrams, Ph.D.(Course co-coordinator), Joseph Skitzki, M.D., Brahm Segal, M.D. Kristopher Attwood, Ph.D. (Biostatistics and Bioinformatics Department)

Credit Hours: 
7:00 pm

The course will start on Friday, September 30, 2016

Session 1:  Overview (2 hr)

September 30, 2016 (2-4 PM)

Sharon Evans, Ph.D.

Class Material: Presentation

Additional information: 1.) Nature Paper; 2.) NIH F30/F31 Slides; 3.) Grant Notes

  • Discuss types of grants (R01; K awards; Fellowships)
  • Requirements for qualifying exam (oral/written)
  • Nuts & bolts of  written grant application (overall impact, significance, investigator, innovation, approach, environment)
  • Key practices that boost or sink an application
  • Importance of appropriate citation of the literature; setting the context of the field

Session 2: Anatomy of a Specific Aims Page & Essentials for Grant Writing (2 hr)

October 7, 2016 (2-4 PM)

Sharon Evans, PhD                 

Class Material:  Presentation



  • Reading materials will be assigned that cover essentials for grant writing and clear scientific writing.
  • Anatomy of specific aims page:  breakdown key elements of specific aims page
  • Discuss template/outline for effective specific aims page and provide examples from funded grants
  • Highlight common mistakes

Session 3: Review Process (2 hr)
October 14, 2016 (2-4 PM)

Sharon Evans, PhD

Class Material: PresentationF30F31 Application and Summary Statement



  • Discuss review process
  • Goals of enhanced peer review
  • Conflict of interest and ethics of peer review
  • Watch 20-30’ video of study section meeting; how dynamics can change during live review at committee meeting
  • Provide handout on guidelines and instructions for study section review
  • Detailed discussion of evaluation criteria
  • Highlight importance of getting significance, impact up front in review criteria
  • Assign reviews for primary, secondary, and tertiary reviewers of two NIH/NIAID-provided example grants for mock study section 

Session 4: Peer Review of Funded NIH F30/31 Predoctoral Grants
(2 hr)
October 21, 2016 (2-4 PM)

Scott Abrams, PhD and Joseph Skitzki, MD

Class Material: 


  • Reading materials will be assigned that cover essentials for grant writing and clear scientific writing.
  • Anatomy of specific aims page:  breakdown key elements of specific aims page
  • Discuss template/outline for effective specific aims page and provide examples from funded grants
  • Highlight common mistakes

Session 5:  Ethical Conduct in Research

October 28, 2016 (2-4 PM)

Sharon Evans, Ph.D.

Class Material: Presentation, Paper 1, Paper 2

Assigned reading: On Being a Scientist: A guide to Responsible Conduct in Research, 
(note that you can purchase this book on line for $12.95 but this is NOT necessary; you can download free copy at this website).

Assignment for class:  read On Being a Scientist:  A guide to responsible conduct in research from the National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and Institute of Medicine


  • Why are ethics in scientific research important
  • Watch and discuss video from National Academy of Sciences, ‘On being a scientist’
  • Guidelines for ethical conduct of research
  • Definition of scientific misconduct – 3 elements
  • Examples of scientific misconduct (Nazi Germany; 1960’s injection of cancer cells; Tuskegee Syphilis study
  • Nuremberg code; Helsinki recommendations
  • Plagiarism
  • Fabrication and falsification of data in grants/publications
  • Watch and discuss Office of Research Integrity video on scientific misconduct in the laboratory
  • Discuss mentor/mentoree responsibilities and relationships; case studies of scientific misconduct
  • Revisit conflict of interest & peer review
  • Issues of collaborative research
  • Management of intellectual property
  • Discuss current case studies of research misconduct (Potti, Duke University 2010; Woo-Suk, Seoul National University 2005)
  • Publication ethics
  • Safekeeping patient data & requirements for maintaining integrity of all data
  • The worst and best in science emerges from scientific misconduct:  discussion of policies for handling scientific misconduct

November 4, 2016


November 11, 2016


Session 6: Scientific Rigor and Reproducibility (2 hr)

Brahm Segal, M.D.

Class Material:


This class will be taught by Brahm Segal (Chief, Infectious Diseases, Professor of Oncology; Director of Faculty Development; Member, Dept. of Immunology) and will cover the importance of inclusion of scientific rigor and reproducibility in research grants. Scientific rigor and reproducibility are essential components of research, and are emphasized at NIH study sections. Grants are required to address key biological variables that can affect experimental results, propose a rigorous experimental design that accounts for potential confounders and limits bias, and discuss plans to evaluate reproducibility of results. 

November 25, 2016


Session 7 & 8: Biostatistical Analysis of Research Data (6 hr)

November 18 and December 2, 2016 (2-5 PM)

Kristopher Attwood, Ph.D.

Class Material: Presentation


Two modules will be taught by Kristopher Attwood (Assistant Professor of Oncology, Associate Director, Biostatistics Shared Resource, Department of Biostatistics and Bioinformatics). These sessions will cover some major concepts of statistical approaches used to evaluate experimental data in immunological research.