Application titles, abstracts and statements of public health relevance that are part of your application are read by reviewers, program officers and other NIH staff, but once funded, this information is also available to the public via NIH’s RePORTER website. It is essential that the public is able to learn about the research projects in which our nation is investing. Therefore, the extramural community has a responsibility to clearly communicate the intent and value of their research to all those interested in learning more–Congress, the public, administrators, and scientists. Take every opportunity to tell people what you do, why you do it, and why they should care–clearly!
Knowing that your title, abstract and public health relevance statements will be public if your grant application is funded means that you should consider more than just reviewers when writing them. Clear, succinct language is appreciated by everyone, reviewers included. That being said, writing clearly and succinctly without compromising the science is a challenge. It is easy to lapse into familiar scientific jargon or to “utilize” elaborate words in an effort to make your writing more technical. On the other hand, it is often difficult to strike the balance between being too scientific and too colloquial because colloquialisms can lead to misinterpretations of the research value. Nonetheless, a great idea told in a way that an educated audience can understand will speak for itself. So I encourage you to use language that best expresses the importance of your research for the portions of your application that will reach the wider community. Reviewers are being notified to expect plain language in these sections of your application. You have the rest of the application to describe the technical details of your project.
For more information on this initiative and to see before and after examples of using plain language in a NIH application title, abstract and statement of public health relevance, please see Communicating Research Intent and Value in NIH Applications. And stay tuned to All About Grants for a podcast on the topic being released this week. The NIH also offers tips for the use of Plain Language on its Web page, Clear Communication: An NIH Health Literacy Initiative. If you’re looking for other elements of the grants process and/or additional grant writing tips, check out the About Grants Web page for helpful links, including those on Writing Your Application.