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Role of Partnerships: Second Annual Meeting of Child Health Services R

Grantsmanship (Including Mock Study Session)

Second annual meeting held to explore the state of the science in children's health services research.

Grantsmanship (Including Mock Study Session)


Denise Dougherty, Ph.D.
Senior Advisor, Child Health, Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality

Irene Fraser, Ph.D.
Director, Center for Organization and Delivery Studies, Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality

James Perrin, M.D.
Director, Mass General Hospital Center for Child and Health Policy

Jill Joseph, M.D., Ph.D.
Director, Center for Health Services and Clinical Research, Children's National Medical Center


The Grantmaking Process
Additional Tips for the Grantmaking Process Provided During the Question-and-Answer Session


This session provided an overview of how the grantmaking process works at AHRQ , and included tips for submitting a fundable application, and a hands-on mock peer review session in which panelists critiqued and scored an actual (anonymous) application.

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The Grantmaking Process

Addressing the grantmaking process at AHRQ, Denise Dougherty, Ph.D. noted that the Agency is very interested in improving health care, and includes a focus on personal health care services. Some of the other major AHRQ research issues are: worker safety/health, informatics, and quality in clinical preventive methods.

One important piece of advice to those seeking grants is to call program officials on staff before applying for funding. A concept letter can be submitted to an AHRQ Center officer to determine if it is a fundable idea:

If positive feedback is provided, then the researcher should pursue the proposal application. However, positive feedback from a Center officer does not guarantee that the proposal will be funded.

AHRQ information sources:

Guidelines for sending in an application:

  • Look at review criteria.
  • Use the PHS 398 form (
  • Include a cover letter if you want another agency to be a secondary (or primary) funder; suggest which study section; mention who you have spoken with at AHRQ; quote the research priority your application responds to.
  • Do not forget face page.
  • Do not skimp on the research design section.
  • Do not have missing information.
  • Meet the due date.

What happens upon receipt of the application at AHRQ:

  • Application is sent to an appropriate Center.
  • A project officer is assigned to review applications.
  • Review sections are assigned or assembled.
  • Review sections meet and score all applications.
  • Project officers write funding recommendations.
  • Funding meetings are convened, and the score an application received from the review is given significant weight during these final meetings.
  • Notice of grant award is made.

Irene Fraser, Ph.D. spoke generally on the grantmaking process, and the support at AHRQ for child health research projects. She noted some important tips, including:

  • Make sure to come up with research ideas that fit specific research tracks.
  • Get to know Center officials.
  • When applying, make sure to mention any conversations with Center officials in the cover letter if the official felt that research ideas might fit in with the Agency's priorities for research. (Center officials can provide TA on how the proposal can be written and will give quick feedback on research ideas.)
  • During the funding recommendation stage, scores among proposals may be close, so a Center official who has spoken with the researcher about the research idea may serve as an advocate for the proposed study.
  • When first applying, start with a small grant program so that AHRQ can get to know the researcher. Small grants can fund more unique research ideas and work as "venture capital" that may eventually turn into larger research projects.
  • Proposal weakness will stick out because of the large number of proposals and lack of dollars to fund all of the research.

Dr. Fraser also pointed out which weaknesses tend to stand out during the application process. These include:

  • An overambitious study.
  • Weak methodology.
  • A weak proposed research team (make sure to include senior researchers).
  • Directions for completing the application were not followed
  • The proposal topic is not an AHRQ research priority.

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James Perrin, M.D. and Jill Joseph, M.D., Ph.D. performed a mock grant review of a proposal. The grant review elements included:

  • Overview of Project and Significance of Research.
  • Critique of Current Research.
  • Approach to Research (Questions and Hypothesis; Variables; Data Sources).
  • Analysis Plan.
  • Research Resources.
  • Budget.
  • Qualifications of Researchers.

Tips and suggestions that were identified during discussion included the following:

  • Make sure there is enough staff in the proposal.
  • There should be a wise, interdisciplinary research team that can provide different research resources.
  • Review the budget carefully. Is there enough money? Too much money?
  • Build on prior research work because it helps with reliability.
  • Describe research measures thoroughly.
  • Document why the research is important.
  • Make sure the suggested variables match hypotheses.
  • Discuss bias and selection of the research population (you need to make it known that you have thought about it).
  • Because the health services research field is not rich in conceptual models, model development for the study must be tight.
  • If the study includes qualitative research, be rigorous in developing study design.

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Additional Tips for the Grantmaking Process Provided During the Question-and- Answer Session

What is the best way to get funded?

  • Start with something that you love to research and that will create a better proposal.
  • Be focused with the research design.
  • Start with small grants so AHRQ can get to know you, and hopefully the Agency will be willing to fund larger projects later.

How do you write a grant?

  • The grant needs to explain the who? what? why? and how? of the research.
  • The grant should demonstrate that the researcher is a careful, thorough person, who can get the job done.
  • Make sure that all information gets into the grant. There are page limits for a reason, so do not rely on appendices to get in added information.
  • Make sure that you develop a clear, well thought out research model.
  • Think about alternative funding to allow the expansion of the project.
  • Don't get discouraged if you fail the first time.

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Current as of June 2000

Internet Citation:

Grantsmanship (Including Mock Study Session). Role of Partnerships: Second Annual Meeting of Child Health Services Researchers. June 27, 2000. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD.

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Page last reviewed June 2000
Internet Citation: Role of Partnerships: Second Annual Meeting of Child Health Services R: Grantsmanship (Including Mock Study Session). June 2000. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD.


The information on this page is archived and provided for reference purposes only.


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