Megan:          Welcome to All About Grants.  This is Megan Columbus from NIH's Office of Extramural Research. Here today to talk about the modified biosketch format that will be required to be used in NIH applications beginning on May 25th, 2015. Today I have with me again, Dr. Bart Trawick, from the National Library of Medicine. He's the Product Manager for SciENcv. And Dr. Neil Thakur from the Office of Extramural Research who's shepherding the new biosketch format project.

Megan:           Neil, what can you tell me; what's changed in the new biosketch format?

Neil:                Well, the new biosketch format will allow investigators to tell a richer story about themselves in their own words. We've streamlined the personal statement of the existing biosketch where people talk about their skills and experience that's necessary for the projects that they've applied for. And we've also allowed them to include some narrative statements that describe their most significant contributions to science.

Megan:           Ahh, so that can be things outside of the realm of straight publications, of course, then?

Neil:                Absolutely. So, in other words, instead of asking reviewers to infer what a scientist's contributions are from a list of citations, we ask scientists to tell us. They can cite up to four research products, like patents, papers and data sets, to support their descriptions.

Megan:           Which will certainly help reviewers be able to evaluate more readily their suitability to

Neil:                That's our expectation. The new format takes this summary of a scientific career from a mere listing of publications to something that is more descriptive about the impact of a scientist's contributions on knowledge and the advancement of science.

Megan:           What would you say to folks who are concerned about having to move to the new format?

Neil:                It is incredibly challenging to get NIH funding right now.  People think strategically about what and where they publish, in part because it may influence review. But NIH's leadership feels we need to move beyond simple journal metrics and focus even more on the actual science. To move away from inference from lists and let the applicant frame their work in their own words. The new biosketch format is one of the best ways we can think to do that.  So we are changing the rules a bit, and the stakes are high, so people will be concerned. 

On top the tremendous funding pressure, our applicants also face considerable time pressure. Many of them have gotten the old biosketch down to something they can generate very quickly.  But the new format has short narrative sections. Crystalizing your contributions into a few sentences is hard for everyone. It takes some thought.  I can understand why some people might resent having to do that when they were able to get funded under the old biosketch.

Unfortunately, there is no good way to focus back on to the science and away from lists of papers without going through this transition.  But once you develop your descriptions, it won't take much to keep them up to date.  And as Bart will explain later, we have been working on some software tools to make it even easier.

Megan:           I can imagine there are new investigators who may be a little bit concerned about having to articulate their contributions to science to date. Do you have any advice for them?

Neil:                Whatever career stage you are in, we feel you have a better chance of conveying your contributions in your own words, than you are by relying on a list of citations to do it for you.  For example, if you are early in your career, you may want to explain the techniques you have refined or the potential implications of the theoretical framework you developed in your thesis. Reviewers are aware of which applications are from new investigators and usually keep that consideration in mind.

Megan:           So this is really a new opportunity for folks to do that.

Neil:                Right.

Megan:           Wonderful. I know there's another benefit, that some people may see as a benefit, is that the page limit is actually extending from four to five pages to make sure that people have room to describe their accomplishments.

Neil:                That's right.

Megan:           ...appropriately. Bart, the National Library of Medicine, I know, has great tools to be able to help with biosketch generation.

Bart:               That's right. We've recently developed a tool called SciENcv, which stands for Science Experts Network Curriculum Vitae. It allows scientists to leverage their existing data that they might have publications in PubMed, they might have an eRA Commons profile and awards associated with their account. And SciENcv allows them to quickly create an NIH biosketch. It pulls all this data in, presents it on a form, makes it very quick and easy for them to create an NIH biosketch.

Megan:           So this really could be fairly seamless

Bart:               That's  our hope, is to make this easy to use and a powerful tool for scientists that are applying for NIH funds.

Neil:                And in the long run we're very excited about having these descriptions around. It'll help the NIH tell a much richer story about the impact of federal investments on  the advancement of knowledge and the development of products that help people and  reduce the burden of disease.

Megan:           And any of these biosketch sketches that are created in SciENcv, and then attached to the application and sent to the federal agency with our grant application. NIH can then mine for those data elements; right?

Neil:                That's right. So those narrative statements will be out there. They can be text mined. We can look at that kind of information and tell stories that are much richer than we've been able to tell in the past.

Megan:           Wonderful. We have an example of a biosketch format on the NIH Grant Forms website. We'll give you the URL at the end of this podcast.

Megan:           Fabulous. Hey, thank you the two of you for joining me yet again. And good luck to all of you out there who are developing new biosketches.

Announcer:   For more information on NIH's new biosketch format, please visit and search for notice number NOT-OD-15-032 here you will find the official policy regarding the new format as well as links to the frequently asked questions. If you are like to access the new format pages for the NIH biosketch please visit