Structuring the Research Strategy Section of Your Application

Many applicants have questions about how to structure the Research Strategy section. This new section was created when application forms were restructured as part of the Enhancing Peer Review initiative. If you are preparing an application now, you are dealing with this question.

The Research Strategy section is made up of three subsections: Significance, Innovation and Approach. Depending on whether your application is new or a renewal/revision, “Preliminary Studies for New Applications” or “Progress Report for Renewal/Revision Applications” will also be included in the Research Strategy.

However, where you choose to place preliminary studies or progress report information within the Research Strategy is up to you. You should use your discretion to place it where it makes the most sense for your application (NOT-OD-10-050).

You may place it in the Approach section, as suggested in the Guide Notice, Restructured Application Forms and Instructions for Submissions for FY2011 Funding, or you may place it within either of the other two sections, as stated in the SF 424 (R&R) and PHS 398 application instructions, where the section on Preliminary Studies for New Applications and Progress Report for Renewal/Revision Applications is prefaced with, “As applicable, also include the following information as part of the Research Strategy, keeping within the three sections listed above: Significance, Innovation, and Approach.”

You might also be wondering about how to organize the Research Strategy section if you have more than one specific aim. You should again use your discretion in organizing the information to best convey the desired information to the reviewers. Either of the following choices would be acceptable, and the decision is up to you!

Significance: Specific Aim 1, Specific Aim 2
Innovation: Specific Aim 1, Specific Aim 2
Approach: Specific Aim 1, Specific Aim 2
Specific Aim 1: Significance, Innovation, Approach
Specific Aim 2: Significance Innovation, Approach

In conclusion, however you chose to organize your Research Strategy, take care to keep within specified page limits. Make sure to use headings to mark your sections so reviewers can easily find what they need. Don’t forget, for renewal or revision applications, the list of publications, patents and other printed materials should be included in the Progress Report Publication List and not as part of the Progress Report within the Research Strategy. Finally, if you are submitting a resubmission application, review this article from February 2010 for suggestions on how to mark your changes from the previous submission.

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