Friday, January 21, 2011

Good NIH Study Section for Biological Anthropologists

When contemplating a grant submission to NIH, the process can seem so complex and the health focus so narrow that a biological anthropologist may decide this isn't the funding agency for her. However, the pots of money are vast compared to what we can get elsewhere, so it's worth learning more about you NIH options. One thing you should know is that when you submit a large grant (i.e. an R01) and sometimes the smaller grants (R03, R21, this varies so check), it goes first to the Center for Scientific Review. This is where its scientific merit is first evaluated, where you get your score, and where it is first decided whether your grant is fundable (i.e. if they don't discuss your grant at all, you're not getting a score, and thus, no money). If it gets a good enough score, then it could be sent to the particular center of your preference (e.g. National Institute of Child Health and Human Development) where it goes through some more review and, one hopes, approval for funding. But it has to go through CSR first.

CSR is broken into many many many topical study sections, and you can specify a preference for a particular section. But do your homework! Even a section that ostensibly seems like a good topical fit may be so very narrowly focused on physiology or genetic mechanisms, for example, that your broader, perhaps evolutionary, biosocial, or epidemiological approach won't make sense or be valuable to them. You can actually see who is on that particular section and do a lit search, which could give you an idea of the focus or even potential bias. A study section that might be of particular interest is the Social Science and Population Studies Section. A lot of people aren't aware this section even exists but it has the potential to be a wonderful fit for much biological anthropology and biocultural research, especially that involving population-level or large sample analysis:
The Social Sciences and Population Studies (SSPS) Study Section reviews applications related to population processes, composition and distribution, their antecedents and consequences, and their inter-relationships with biological, social, cultural, economic, geographic, institutional, behavioral, developmental and biomedical factors and processes. This includes modeling, data collection and other studies of morbidity, mortality and health, population movement and distribution, reproduction, population aging and composition, economic factors, labor force and retirement, household and family structure, intergenerational relations, institutional structure, the genetic profiles of population members related to these variables, and biodemography in the U.S. and other countries. Most studies involve large population samples. Specific areas covered by SSPS:

Morbidity, mortality and health over the life course, including health disparities, functioning and disability, studies of perinatal, infant, child, adult and elderly health.

Reproductive health and behavior, including studies of pregnancy outcomes; contraceptive use and sexual behavior; fertility and infertility, birth spacing and timing; birth intentions; and family structure.

Population movement; including migration of people within and across national boundaries.

Population composition and changes in composition, such as population aging, household and family structure, economic status and inequality, and health status, and family relationships.

Health and labor economics and policy, including intergenerational exchanges and bequests, employment, labor force and retirement; labor force transitions, income security of population segments such as children or elderly persons.
Population and the environment.

Patterns of risk behavior, including substance use, behavior problems, and obesity.

Um, does that sound perfect or what?!? Currently, the SSPS study section roster lists economists, sociologists, epidemiologists, demographers, an MD and a couple of MPH's, and yes, even a biological anthropologist. If you have any questions about this section as a potential landing for your NIH proposal, you should contact the SSPS Scientific Review Officer (SRO), Bob Weller.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for this post! I am just trying to get my head around the NIH, and wonder if you can recommend a book to help me get going with funding applications?