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. There are four parts to this program: (1) orientation and peer mentoring, (2) three workshops, (3) internal review of draft applications, and (4) individualized feedback sessions. Participants should plan to attend all steps.

An illustration of the Path to Independence Program process and time commitment overview can be downloaded here.

Networking and Peer Mentoring
Participants are required to attend one of two orientation sessions, either on Monday, February 3, 2014, 12:00-1:00 pm (lunch) or Thursday, February 6, 2014, 7:30-8:30 am (breakfast).  This networking event provides participants with the opportunity to pick up grant writing resources compiled by the Office for Faculty Development.  Participants do not need to attend for the whole hour and are welcome to stop in briefly.

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. Dewhirst and other senior faculty members.

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. Dewhirst and other senior faculty members.

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.

Feedback Sessions
In these sessions, held approximately 1 month prior to the NIH deadline, applicants will meet with reviewers to present their responses and amended applications based on comments from the Internal Review. Reviewers will provide additional feedback and guidance on opportunities to enhance the applicant’s chances of achieving a fundable score.

How to Participate
Interested junior faculty members must register their intent to participate. Selection for participation will be on a first-come-first served basis and preference will be made for first R01 grants or resubmissions of first R01 grants. Upon registration, applicants must provide a signed nomination letter (template found here) from the applicant's Department Chair OR Division Chief. Additionally, applicants must provide a brief summary of their proposal and a draft of their Specific Aims page. Late submissions will not be considered. Registration will open mid-December.


NIH Submission Date
February 5
June 5
October 5
Registration Due
September 28
January 28
May 28
Specific Aims Workshops
Follow-up Workshops        
Full Draft Due for Internal Review
December 1
April 1
August 1
Comments Returned
December 15
April 15
August 15
Discussion Sessions
First week January
First week May
First week September

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.