Published 11/1/2007
Annie Hayashi

Easing the application process

Among the 27 institutes and centers of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), most orthopaedic-related research is funded by the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS). The 2007 budget for NIAMS was more than $508 million.

Stephen I. Katz, MD, PhD, is the director of NIAMS. Orthopaedic surgeon James S. Panagis, MD, MPH, directs the NIAMS orthopaedics extramural program.

The mission of NIAMS is to support research, to train basic and clinician scientists, and to disseminate information on research progress into the causes, treatment, and prevention of arthritis and musculoskeletal and skin diseases. NIAMS’ multidisciplinary approach to disease includes grant support for the following programs:

  • Basic and clinical investigations
  • Epidemiologic research
  • Research centers
  • Research training for orthopaedic surgeons/research scientists

Electronic application process
Beginning in 2007, all grant applications must be submitted electronically. The NIH grant application Web site includes a timeline, frequently asked questions, training materials, tips, and contacts. The site (
http://era.nih.gov/electronicreceipt) is quite robust and guides applicants through the entire process.

Although the application process can be quite daunting, the NIH offers a number of helpful Internet resources, including online tutorials on how to write a grant application as well as advice on research training, career awards, and other informative subjects.

The following two links may be helpful for individuals who are considering applying for research grants from the NIH/NIAMS: http://grants1.nih.gov/grants/

Links on this home page for the Office of Extramural Research connect to information about the grants process, award data, and grant policies, as well as to funding opportunities, forms, deadlines, and NIH-wide initiatives. http://www.niams.nih.gov

The NIAMS home page links to information on the grants and contracts currently being funded, the clinical trials that are underway, an explanation of the NIAMS intramural/extramural programs, and an overview of its strategic plan and direction.

Orthopaedic surgeons who have received NIH/NIAMS grants say that completing an application can take time (80 to 200 hours) and is an arduous process, but the investment is worth it. Applicants should be prepared to answer reviewers’ several sets of questions as the grant is reviewed. For example, reviewers may ask one set of questions during the first go-around, followed by a completely unrelated set of questions during the second review. Because reviewers may not be familiar with a specific area of research, applicants should be prepared to explain it clearly and carefully.

Finding a mentor
Successful grant applicants recommend having a mentor to review the application and the reviewers’ questions and feedback. Because researchers often feel isolated, a concerned and involved mentor can provide another perspective that’s especially valuable.

As one clinician scientist said, “When you are in the middle of a project, running back and forth between the operating room and the lab, you miss out on the camaraderie of both the clinical and the research worlds. You don’t have the time to share with other researchers and let them know, ‘Oh, that happened to me, too.’ It is the isolation that kills the scientist in the clinician scientist.”

The AAOS, the Orthopaedic Research and Education Foundation (OREF), and the Orthopaedic Research Society offer multiple venues for clinician scientists at all stages of their careers to connect with each other. (See “Tools for young investigators”) For more information, visit the OREF Web site (www.oref.org) or the research page of the AAOS Web site (www.aaos.org/research).

Annie Hayashi is the senior science writer for AAOS Now. She can be reached at hayashi@aaos.org