Improving Scholarly Communication Series - Writing Effective NIH Grant Applications

Jul 12, 2024

11:00 AM - 12:00 PM

University Capitol Centre, UCC

200 South Capitol Street, Iowa City, IA 52240

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Interested researchers, faculty, and staff are invited to register for one, or more, sessions of this series. To sign up, click here

The Improving Scholarly Communications sessions are a three-part series designed to provide you strategies to improve the clarity of your scholarly communications, both written and oral. These workshops are hosted by Paul Casella (more information below) and will take place in the Summer of 2024. Writing Effective Grant Applications is the second event of this series; more information on other sessions here:

  • Writing For Publication - Friday, June 14 at 11 a.m.
  • Speaking for Success: Strategies for Effective Medical and Scientific Presentations - Friday, Aug. 16 at 11 a.m.

Click here to learn more about this series.

Writing Effective NIH Grant Applications

This course reviews the principles of good grant writing to produce clear, direct, and compelling proposals. Focuses on understanding the psychology of reviewers and the review process, how to engage readers and facilitate understanding, and how to manage the proposal writing process. Suggests proposal templates. Includes exercises related to specific elements of a scientific proposal, particularly the Specific Aims page, as well as a workshop portion in which the group critiques participant writing samples.

Provides specific direction on how to best organize and format NIH applications for reader accessibility and impact, including information on:

  • Assessing an institute or grantor’s priorities
  • Deconstructing RFAs, application instructions, project descriptions, model grant applications
  • Emphasizing the significance, innovation, and health-relatedness of your project
  • Facilitating reader accessibility
  • Taking advantage of the natural positions of emphasis in the sentence and paragraph
  • Designing and integrating clear and purposeful tables and figures
  • Using subheadings, numbering systems, and figure legends effectively
  • Telling the story and using other journalistic conventions
  • Selling the idea in an objective way in order to establish and maintain scientific integrity
  • Networking with colleagues, collaborators, consultants, mentors, and NIH program officers
  • Using the reviewer critique criteria as “sentence starters” for the information you need to include
  • Writing an effective and integrated Biographical Sketch that will accompany your application

Paul Casella, MFA

Paul Casella is a writer, teacher, editor, and producer. He is a graduate of Dartmouth College and the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Since 1988, Paul has worked with health professionals to improve the clarity and effectiveness of their manuscripts for publication, formal presentations, grant applications, slides, posters, videos, and other media for scientific purposes.

Since 1993, Paul has presented over 3,000 seminars on written and spoken communication skills to physicians, pharmacists, scientists, nurses, administrators, and other scientific and health care professionals at universities, medical centers and meetings across North America and Europe. At international meetings Paul coaches speakers on their delivery skills before they present to the society. 

A founding member of the Health Care Communications Group, Paul has authored two chapters of their award-winning book Writing, Speaking, and Communication Skills for Health Professionals (Yale University Press 2001).

In addition to his work giving presentations, Paul is an adjunct assistant professor and a consultant to the faculty at the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine, where he leads seminars, edits manuscripts, coaches speakers, and identifies and serves the advanced communication needs of the faculty.

Individuals with disabilities are encouraged to attend all University of Iowa–sponsored events. If you are a person with a disability who requires a reasonable accommodation in order to participate in this program, please contact in advance at