A quick fix to improve your NIH Biosketch

Here’s a super-quick fix to a mistake I see on nearly everyone's Biosketch. The fix is *really* easy (hint: it's "follow the instructions"...but I'll show you what I mean).

(Pro Tip: use the NIH-recommended SciENcv tool to create your Biosketch according to NIH formatting rules)

There are two main narrative sections for the Biosketch: Personal Statement and Contributions to Science.

In the Personal Statement section, most people write about their experience and expertise and how it relates to the current project proposal. Which is...fine. But it could be better.

There are lots of ways to beef up the Personal Statement section, but today I'm going to focus on the major flaw I see in almost every Biosketch that comes across my desk. And that happens in the Contributions to Science section.

How to make the Contributions to Science section in your NIH Biosketch more competitive

Most people write Contributions to Science as a continuation of their personal statement. They use it as a chronology of their career to talk about the projects they were involved in and how they developed expertise in particular approaches or techniques.

But if that's how you're tackling that section, you're missing a huge opportunity.

To show you what I mean, I'll first direct your attention to this handy-dandy guide from the NIH. It walks you through the basic instructions for completing every section of your application. If you head to Section R.240 and click on "Instructions for a Biographical Sketch", you'll find this:


Let's zoom in on the 'Content' part:

For each contribution, indicate the following:

  • The historical background that frames the scientific problem;

  • The central finding(s);

  • The influence of the finding(s) on the progress of science or the application of those finding(s) to health and technology;

  • Your specific role in the described work

Here's the thing.

Almost nobody follows these instructions.

(But you should.)

This is why:

Framing your contribution using that 4-part structure helps to give reviewers context for your contribution to science. (Eagle-eyed readers will recognize an opportunity to use the Problem-Gap-Hook framework here)

It also forces you to describe your work as an actual contributionnot just your experience and expertise.

Because this is a flaw I see in nearly all the Biosketches that come across my desk, it's safe to assume that this is a flaw in a big chunk of applications to NIH.

Which means that it's a huge opportunity for you to improve the competitiveness of your application, just by following the instructions. So easy, right? (By the way: did you know that your Biosketch can—and should!—be leveraged for criteria other than your Investigator score?)

This is a super-easy, super-quick fix that's hidden in plain sight. Take advantage of it!

In my upcoming course, Grant Funding Formula, I teach you more ways to get the most out of your Contributions to Science section—and other parts of your Biosketch like your Personal Statement. And I don't just teach you how to do that for the Biosketch—I give you tools, templates, and prompts to get the most out of every section of your NIH R series application. Grant Funding Formula shows you how to write a highly competitive NIH R grant easily and efficiently.

Registration for Grant Funding Formula opens next week! 

Click the button to get on the interest list for the course


TL;DR: You can give yourself a HUGE competitive advantage by making a super-easy fix to your NIH Biosketch...just by following the recommended 4-part structure in the Contributions to Science section.

If you want more tools, strategies, and templates to write your next NIH R grant application, click here to get updates on my upcoming course, Grant Funding Formula. Registration opens next week!

Hey! writing your R01 application doesn't have to feel like such a slog.

I made you a 90-Day NIH R01 Planning Blueprint to take some of the stress out of writing your next R01 application. Sign up to map out exactly what to do to write an outstanding proposal—and when to do it.