AHRQ Tips for Grant Applicants

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) funds grants for research to support the Agency’s mission to improve the safety and quality of the health care system. This page provides links to information regarding grant application basics, such as the funding process; funding authorities; where to find grant announcements, guidance, and policy notices; and various aspects of the grant application process. It provides a description of grant review criteria, tips for writing a grant application (including page limitations), as well as an explanation of how grants are funded, along with examples of funded grants and grantee profiles.

AHRQ Mission

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality's (AHRQ) mission is to produce evidence to make health care safer, higher quality, more accessible, equitable, and affordable, and to work within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and with other partners to make sure that the evidence is understood and used. AHRQ priorities are described.

Grant Application Basics

http://www.ahrq.gov/funding/process/index.html

What Authorities Do We Have To Fund Grants

Funding Authorities
http://www.ahrq.gov/funding/policies/polfedreg/index.html

Where To Find AHRQ Funding Announcements, Guidance and Updated Policy Notes

AHRQ Funding Opportunities Announcement (FOA)  Site
http://www.ahrq.gov/funding/fund-opps/index.html

AHRQ Special Emphasis Notices Page
http://www.ahrq.gov/funding/priorities-contacts/special-emphasis-notices/index.html

AHRQ Policy Notices Site
http://www.ahrq.gov/funding/policies/polnotice/index.html

Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) Guidance for R01, R03, R18 applications
http://www.ahrq.gov/funding/policies/foaguidance/index.html

Funding Priorities
http://www.ahrq.gov/funding/priorities-contacts/index.html

How Are Grant Applications Reviewed

AHRQ Study Sections
http://www.ahrq.gov/funding/process/study-section/index.html

AHRQ Criteria for Peer Review
http://grants.nih.gov/grants/guide/notice-files/NOT-HS-10-002.html

Description of Updated Review Criteria

Enhanced review criteria are generally described below:

Overall Impact.  Reviewers will provide an overall impact score to reflect their assessment of the likelihood for the project to exert a sustained, powerful influence on the research field(s) involved, in consideration of the following five core review criteria, and additional review criteria (as applicable for the project proposed).

Core Review Criteria.  Reviewers will consider each of the five review criteria below in the determination of scientific and technical merit, and give a separate score for each.  An application does not need to be strong in all categories to be judged likely to have major scientific impact.  For example, a project that by its nature is not innovative may be essential to advance a field.

Significance.  Does the project address an important problem or a critical barrier to progress in the field?  If the aims of the project are achieved, how will scientific knowledge, technical capability, and/or clinical practice be improved? How will successful completion of the aims change the concepts, methods, technologies, treatments, services, or preventative interventions that drive this field?

Investigator(s).  Are the PD/PI, collaborators, and other researchers well suited to the project?  Do the investigators have appropriate experience and training?  If the project is collaborative in nature, do the investigators have complementary and integrated expertise?  Are the leadership approach, governance, and organizational structure appropriate for the project?

Innovation.  Does the application challenge and seek to shift current research or clinical practice paradigms by utilizing novel theoretical concepts, approaches or methodologies, instrumentation, or interventions?  Are the concepts, approaches or methodologies, instrumentation, or interventions novel to one field of research or novel in a broad sense?  Is a refinement, improvement, or new application of theoretical concepts, approaches or methodologies, instrumentation, or interventions proposed?

Approach. Are the overall strategy, methodology, and analyses well-reasoned and appropriate to accomplish the specific aims of the project?  Are potential problems, alternative strategies, and benchmarks for success presented?  If the project is in the early stages of development, will the strategy establish feasibility and will particularly risky aspects be managed?

If the project involves clinical research, are the plans for 1) protection of human subjects from research risks, and 2) inclusion of minorities and members of both sexes/genders, as well as the inclusion of children, justified in terms of the scientific goals and research strategy proposed?

Environment: Will the scientific environment in which the work will be done contribute to the probability of success?  Are the institutional support, equipment and other physical resources available to the investigators adequate for the project proposed?  Will the project benefit from unique features of the scientific environment, subject populations, or collaborative arrangements?

Additional Review Criteria.  As applicable for the project proposed, reviewers will consider the following additional items in the determination of scientific and technical merit, but will not give separate scores for these items and should not consider them in providing an overall impact score.

Protections for Human Subjects.  For research that involves human subjects but does not involve one of the six categories of research that are exempt under 45 CFR Part 46, the committee will evaluate the justification for involvement of human subjects and the proposed protections from research risk relating to their participation according to the following five review criteria: 1) risk to subjects, 2) adequacy of protection against risks, 3) potential benefits to the subjects and others, 4) importance of the knowledge to be gained, and 5) data and safety monitoring, as appropriate, for the proposed research.

For research that involves human subjects and meets the criteria for one or more of the six categories of research that are exempt under 45 CFR Part 46, the committee will evaluate: 1) the justification for the exemption, 2) human subjects involvement and characteristics, and 3) sources of materials.

Budget and Period Support.  Reviewers will consider whether the budget and the requested period of support are fully justified and reasonable in relation to the proposed research.

Inclusion of Women and Minorities.  Reviewers will evaluate the proposed plans for inclusion of minorities and members of both genders. 

Inclusion of Priority Populations.  Reviewers will evaluate the proposed plans for inclusion of AHRQ priority populations (refer to the AHRQ policy notice for details).

Resubmission Applications.  When reviewing a Resubmission application (formerly called an amended application), the committee will evaluate the application as now presented, taking into consideration the responses to comments from the previous scientific review group and changes made to the project.

Renewal Applications.  When reviewing a Renewal application (formerly called a competing continuation application), the committee will consider the progress made in the last funding period. Select for more information.

NIH How to Application Guide
https://grants.nih.gov/grants/how-to-apply-application-guide.htm#inst

Writing Tips
http://www.ahrq.gov/funding/process/grant-app-basics/apptips.html

A strong application will contain good ideas, address important issues, and generate confidence that the investigator(s) will make a significant impact.

Criteria Application
Significance Research Strategy

  1. Significance
Investigator(s) Biosketch
Innovation Research Strategy

  1. Innovation
Approach Research Strategy

  1. Approach
Environment Resources

Tips on Writing Your Grant Application

A strong application will contain good ideas, address important issues, and generate confidence that the investigator(s) will make a significant impact.

Do not insist on a hypothesis-driven approach if the project is sound and will move the field forward.

Focus is important, especially for new investigators. Avoid emphasizing minor technical details.

Essentials of a common research plan
http://www.ahrq.gov/funding/process/grant-app-basics/esstplan.html

Common problems cited by peer reviewers
http://www.ahrq.gov/funding/process/grant-app-basics/peerprob.html

  • Uncertainty whether research will produce significant information.
  • Scientific basis not fully developed.
  • No apparent translatability of research into practice or policy.
  • Lack of a theoretical framework.
  • Overly ambitious research plan; volume of proposed work unrealistic.
  • Lack of original ideas.
  • Proposed methods not appropriate to answer research questions.
  • Research issues are more complex than investigator describes.
  • Too little detail in the research plan (leads to reviewers questioning investigators' ability to carry out the research).
  • Lack of focus in study hypotheses, aims and/or research plan.
  • Lack of generalizability of findings or methods.
  • Investigator lacks expertise in methodology.
  • Study team lacks expertise in all needed areas.
  • Proposed time and effort of study team members insufficient.
  • Lack of study controls.
  • Lack of adequate preliminary data.
  • Insufficient consideration of statistical needs.
  • Inadequate attention to protection of human subjects and/or population representation.
  • Lack of complete literature review.

How AHRQ Grants Are Funded

Funding Award Process
http://www.ahrq.gov/funding/process/award-process/index.html

Examples of Funded Grants and Grantee Profiles

AHRQ Project Search (GOLD)
http://gold.ahrq.gov/projectsearch/

Grantee Profiles
http://www.ahrq.gov/funding/grantee-profiles/index.html

Page Limitations

Page Limits for applications
http://grants.nih.gov/grants/how-to-apply-application-guide/format-and-write/table-of-page-limits.htm

For all Fellowship (F) Applications

Section of Application Page Limits*
(if different from FOA, FOA supersedes)
Introduction to Resubmission or Revision Application (when applicable) 1
Applicant's Background and Goals for Fellowship Training 6
Specific Aims 1
Research Strategy 6
Respective Contributions 1
Selection of Sponsor and Institution 1
Training in the Responsible Conduct of Research 1
Sponsor and Co-Sponsor Statements 6
Letters of Support from Collaborators, Contributors, and Consultants 6
Description of Institutional Environment and Commitment to Training
Note: This page limit includes the Additional Educational Information required for F30 and F31 applications.
2
Applications for Concurrent Support (when applicable) 1
Biographical Sketch 5

* FOA instructions always supersede these instructions.

For Individual Career Development Award (K, excluding K12) Applications

Section of Application Page Limits*
(if different from FOA, FOA supersedes)
Introduction to Resubmission or Revision Application (when applicable) 1
Candidate Information and Goals for Career Development and Research Strategy 12 (for both attachments combined)
Specific Aims 1
Training in the Responsible Conduct of Research 1
Candidate's Plan to Provide Mentoring (Include only when required by the specific FOA, e.g., K24 and K05) 6
Plans and Statements of Mentor and Co-mentor(s) 6
Letters of Support from Collaborators, Contributors, and Consultants 6
Description of Institutional Environment 1
Institutional Commitment to Candidate's Research Career Development 1
Biographical Sketch 5

* FOA instructions always supersede these instructions.

For Institutional Training (T), International Training (D43, D71 , U2R), Institutional Career Development (K12, KL2), and Research Education (R25, DP7) Applications

Section of Application Page Limits*
(if different from FOA, FOA supersedes)
Introduction to Resubmission or Revision Application (when applicable) 3
Introduction to Revision Application (when applicable) 1
Specific Aims (Attachment 2 on PHS 398 Research Plan form; applies only to R25 and DP7) 1
Research Education Program Plan (uploaded via the Research Strategy on PHS 398 Research Plan form)
For R25 and DP7 applications only
25
Program Plan (Attachment 2 on PHS 398 Research Training Program Plan form)
For D43, D71, U2R, K12, KL2 and all Training (T) only
25
Plan for Instruction in the Responsible Conduct of Research (Attachment 3 of PHS 398 Research Training Program Plan form)
For D43, D71, U2R, K12, KL2 and all Training (T) only
3
Biographical Sketch 5

* FOA instructions always supersede these instructions.

For R01, R03, R21, and all other Applications

Section of Application Activity Codes Page Limits*
(if different from FOA, FOA supersedes)
Introduction to Resubmission or Revision Applications For all Activity Codes (including each applicable component of a multi-component application) 1
Specific Aims For all Activity Codes that use an application form with the Specific Aims section (including each component of a multi-component application) 1
Research Strategy For Activity Codes R03, R13, U13, R13, U13, R21,R35, R36, R41, R43, SC2, SC3, X011, X021, R50 6
  10
For Activity Codes DP3, DP5, G08, G11, G13, RC2, RC4, RF1, R01,R15, R18, R21/R33, R24, R28, R33, R34, R42, R44, R61/R33, SB1, SC1, SI2, UB1, UC2, UH2,UH3, UG1, UC4, UF1, UG3/UH3, UH2/UH3, U01, U18, U24, U2C, U34, U42, U44, X011, X021 12
For all other Activity Codes Follow FOA instructions
Commercialization Plan For Activity Codes R42, R44, SB1, UT1, U44, UB1 (Attachment 7 on SBIR/STTR Information form) 12
Biographical Sketch For all Activity Codes (including DP1 and DP2 which previously had special page limits) 5

* FOA instructions always supersede these instructions.
1. X01 and X02 FOAs can be either 6 or 12 pages. Review the FOA for details.

Important Note:  Always contact your program official cited in PA/RFA cited in the Funding Announcement. 

 

Page last reviewed November 2016
Page originally created September 2012
Internet Citation: AHRQ Tips for Grant Applicants. Content last reviewed November 2016. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD. http://www.ahrq.gov/funding/process/grant-app-basics/apptips.html
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