We’re set for a major change in how you portray your body of work when applying for NIH funds. With strong support from NIH leadership, we will be rolling out a new biosketch format. The new NIH biosketch emphasizes your accomplishments instead of just a list of publications, which, as previously discussed, we questioned as the best way to showcase your scientific contributions.
The primary focus of the new NIH biosketch will be the magnitude and significance of the scientific advances associated with a researcher’s discoveries and the specific role the researcher played in those findings. This change will help reviewers evaluate you not by where you’ve published or how many times, but instead by what you’ve accomplished. Hopefully, this change will redirect the focus of reviewers and the scientific community more generally from widely questioned metrics, like the number of published papers, the number of citations received by those papers, or one of several statistical approaches used to normalize citations.
We strongly believe that allowing a researcher to generate an account of his or her own work will provide a clearer picture of each individual’s contributions and capabilities. But one might question whether this new biosketch will have a negative impact on younger investigators whose body of work may not be as robust as more established investigators. I believe the contrary is true; this new format will give early career investigators a platform for describing and framing the significance of their contributions, which should help reviewers better understand their accomplishments without having to rely simply on a list of publications.
The implementation of the new biosketch has a few steps: this month, NIH will launch a second round of pilot tests of the modified format. The first round was conducted last year and appeared in two requests for applications (RFA-CA-13-501 and RFA-CA-13-502). The next round of tests will involve more applications and will include surveys of both reviewers and applicants to help us fine tune the application instructions and guidance to reviewers.
The new format, completely described on the SF424 (R&R) Applications and Electronic Submission Page, will allow up to five pages for the entire biosketch, and researchers will be permitted to describe up to five of their most significant contributions to science, the influence of their contributions on their scientific field, and any subsequent effects of those contributions on health or technology. The new format also will allow researchers to describe their specific role in those discoveries and to annotate their description with up to four publications. Additionally, researchers will be allowed to include a link to their complete list of publications in SciENcv or My Bibliography. Later this year we will be able to update SciENcv to help researchers collect the information needed to generate biosketches using the new format, fully positioning NIH to roll out the modified biosketch for all grant applications received for FY 2016 funding and beyond (which generally refers to applications submitted in early 2015). I suggest — if you haven’t already — giving SciENcv a try. Setting up your profile and testing it out now can be helpful as you are thinking about pulling together your biosketch information.
This is an important change for both the biomedical research community and NIH. Your scientific contributions are the foundations of your careers and the fuel for the biomedical research enterprise. I have great confidence that the new biosketch will be the best vehicle for conveying your contributions to NIH and peer reviewers.