Path to Independence Program

published by:
December 12, 2012

We are pleased to offer two grant review programs.  Below you will find information about the Path to Independence Program, which is designed to help junior faculty prepare their first NIH R01s.  For information about the K Club, which is designed to help faculty prepare career development awards, click here.  Both programs are designed to complement departmental resources.

Current and past participants, input your scores and/or feedback about our programs here.

Path to Independence Program
The Path to Independence Program is designed to assist junior investigators in securing their first independent R01, R03, or R21 funding. The program consists of structured reviews and feedback on grant applications by experienced senior faculty who have served as reviewers for the NIH.
The program is offered three times per year to coincide with NIH R01 application submission deadlines. An illustration of the Path to Independence Program process and time commitment overview can be downloaded here.  Participants should plan to attend all parts of the program.

More information about each part of the program can be found below:

How to Participate
Interested junior faculty members must apply to participate. Selection for participation will be on a first-come-first served basis and preference will be made for faculty members preparing a first R01 grant or resubmission of a first R01 grant. Upon registration, applicants must provide a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed by both the applicant, and his or her Department Chair OR Division Chief.   Please use the MOU template (template found here). Additionally, applicants must provide a brief summary of their proposal and a draft of their Specific Aims page. Late applications will not be considered.


Click here for dates specific to the next open program cycle.

NIH Submission Date
February 5, 2015
June 5, 2015
October 5, 2015
Registration Due
September 19
Dinner Orientation SessionSeptember 29February 2 
Specific Aims Workshops
October 1,2,3,6,7
February 18,19,20,23,24
Follow-up Workshops        
November 6,7,10,12,13
March 11,12,13,16,18
Full Draft Due for Internal Review
December 1
April 1
August 1
Review Study Section + Feedback Sessions
December 18
Mid-Late April
Please Note: This timeline is a general outline of the program schedule. At the close of each registration period, participants will be contacted about scheduling the exact dates for their specific workshops. 

Networking Orientation and Peer Mentoring
Participants are required to one orientation session. This networking event provides participants with the opportunity to pick up grant writing resources compiled by the Office for Faculty Development, learn about program requirements, and hear a grantwriting lecture given by Dr. Mark Dewhirst.   Additionally, participants are required to attend peer mentoring sessions, which are biweekly meetings with other faculty in the Path to Independence Program.

Specific Aims Workshops
In these workshops, small groups of applicants will meet to review the specific aims of their application, with the objective of making them as concise and clear as possible. The Specific Aims page should be an executive summary of the whole grant. It needs to be written extremely well, because it is the one part of the grant that the majority of the study section will read. It is also used internally by NIH grant officials for making decisions about the grants to support among those whose scores fall within the fundable range. The workshops will be led by Dr. Mark Dewhirst or Dr. Stephanie Freel and other senior faculty members.

Program participants should bring an electronic copy of an updated specific aims page to this workshop.

Significance/Innovation Workshops
In these workshops, small groups of applicants will meet to review the significance and innovation sections of their applications. There is a saying in study section, “Nothing is worth doing well if it isn’t worth doing.” In a competitive funding climate, it is important that your significance and innovation sections clearly communicate the urgency of your research. Similar in format to the Specific Aims Workshops, these will be led by Dr. Mark Dewhirst or Dr. Stephanie Freel and other senior faculty members.

Program participants should bring an electronic copy of an updated significance/innovation section to this workshop.

Effective Communication Writing Workshops
During these sessions, you will learn how to effectively communicate your ideas and plans to grant reviewers. Led by Dr. Joanna Downer, Director of Research Development at the School of Medicine, these sessions will teach you how to apply the writing principles developed by Dr. George D. Gopen, Professor of the Practice Emeritus of the Duke University Writing Program, as well as Dr. Downer’s own tips and tricks for effectively revising your own work. Dr. Downer has extensive experience in grant writing and has contributed to the successful acquisition of a number of large center-type research grants for School of Medicine faculty.

Internal Review of Draft Applications 
Applicants will submit full drafts of their applications approximately two months prior to each NIH deadline date. A table with internal submission deadlines can be found below. Duke faculty members who have NIH funding experience will provide a comprehensive set of comments and suggestions, and provide a full NIH style written review. 

Following the internal review, a study section will be held for review of draft applications.  Participants are expected to attend this study section to observe the process.  At the end of the study section, each participant will meet with his or her reviewers to discuss feedback and ask questions.