Like a Lost Child In a Big City – The Importance of Cover Letters

We’re in the middle of an application deadline, and it always suprises me when a PI says, “No, I don’t have a cover letter, it’s not required.” It happens quite often, and it’s a common misconception.

One of our senior grants and contracts officers says that sending in a grant to NIH without a cover letter is like dropping off your youngest child in the middle of New York city and asking him to find his way home by himself. There is always a chance it could happen – but it’s not very likely to produce a successful outcome.

Investigators, even experienced ones, sometimes forget that their proposal goes to the Center for Scientific Review to be assigned to a study section. My favorite link to help explain the importance of a cover letter is on the CSR website here.

It’s nice to have the time to walk a new investigator through the list of review committees, and show them the list of names of participants on each. We usually provide a sample cover letter to the CSR which is helpful.

Sounds simple enough – but it’s these kind of touches that reassure a PI that their proposal has a better chance of funding. It’s nice to be able to help, especially in this tough funding climate.

How do you go the extra mile for your investigators?


The Ultimate Time-Management Challenge

It’s that time of the year – if you’re in the biomedical research field, you’re preparing an NIH submission or two, or ten. And undoubtedly, you’ve got a PI who is feverishly working to finish their grant. We’re Ginger Rogers dancing with Fred Astaire, keeping our investigators on track with their submissions and anticipating their next move. It’s a lot of planning and organizing, in addition to all the work we’re required to do. Especially for those investigators who are new to the process and not as prepared as they could be.


  1. Talk to PI’s in advance to anticipate upcoming submissions and plan them in your calendar – block off the time to work on them.
  2. Highlight the requirements of the RFP for your PI.
  3. Create a checklist of documents and due dates for the submission which outlines who is responsible for each for the PI you are supporting.
  4. Include “internal deadlines” on your checklist that allow for backsliding, changes and problems to occur as the application develops.
  5. Assign aspects of the application to yourself so that you can assure things move along at the right pace (budget drafts, etc).
  6. Provide the PI template documents, boilerplate language, etc. to make developing the application easier and most importantly – more likely to be funded!
  7. Research questions and offer to call the project officer for the PI if needed.
  8. Send reminders and update the checklist as the PI moves through the application.
  9. Proofread the application as its being developed.
  10. Encourage the PI to keep going when he/she is discouraged, especially if they are an early stage investigator.

Communication is key! It’s almost October 5 – good luck everyone!


About this blog

I’m really excited about this blog, which probably makes me a huge geek. I really love what I do, and I’m excited to be writing about it on a regular basis. Research administration may not sound like something you want to read about on a blog, but I’ve given it some thought, and I hope that regular visitors will find this blog helpful, and perhaps even fun!

Every week we’ll have practical tips and hints that will make your job easier – Tuesday is Time-Management Tuesday!  We’ll discuss strategies for managing difficult investigators, dealing with project finances, all of those sticky situations that make our jobs so much fun!

And to get ready for the weekend, we’ll have Movie Night Fridays, with a recommendation for a movie or book that pertains to a research administration topic, so that you’ll be able to unwind after a busy week!

Your suggestions, questions and feedback are welcome!