5 Tips to Strengthen Your NIH Biosketch

The NIH Biosketch is an important element of a successful NIH proposal. While often overlooked or prepared with haste, the biosketch requests important information used by reviewers during the proposal review process. Do not wait until the end to complete this important document—take time to really craft a beautiful biosketch. Here are five ways to strengthen your biosketch.

1) Use the current NIH template. This sounds obvious, but I assure you it is an issue I see all the time. Using an outdated template is never a good idea. If your biosketch follows an old template, take the time to convert it to the current format. An outdated format will throw off the reviewers’ flow and gives the impression you do not care enough to review current guidelines. Biosketch forms have an expiration date in the upper right hand corner; make sure yours is current!

2) Follow the guidelines exactly. Again, sounds pretty obvious, but it’s a chronic problem in the world of biosketches. The rules apply to you; follow them. There are limits on the number of citations allowed.

  • Under the Personal Statement section, you may cite FOUR (4) publications
  • Under the Contributions to Science section, you may discuss FIVE (5) contributions each with FOUR (4) citations. Listed citations must fall under one of the discussions on a contribution to science and each contribution section cannot exceed half a page. You cannot simply list citations; they must be presented within a context of your contributions discussion.

3) Get personal. The Personal Statement section of the NIH biosketch is your time to shine! Tell your story. Let reviewers’ know why you are the right person to complete the work outlined and bring this technology to market. Have a personal connection to the technology (inspired by your sick mother or brother?)? Have you transitioned from working in the industry to working for yourself? Do you have tons of experience in an unrelated field but then transitioned to this one? Did you take time off to raise a family? This is the chance to tell your story. Talking about ourselves is often very hard, but there is non-dilutive funding on the line here—invest the time in perfecting your personal narrative!

4) Use the Additional Information section. Not everyone who applies for an NIH grant is an academician; not everyone has publications to cite and that’s okay! But, the biosketch format sometimes makes it feel like you are a square peg fitting in to a round hole. So, use this section to list other important milestones and contributions. Discuss intellectual property, list patents pending and granted, list studies you have been involved with or panels you have served on. If you were in industry, discuss a special project or team you served on that is relevant to the work proposed.

5) Include the current company on your biosketch. It is a common mistake to forget to list the company you are applying for the SBIR/STTR for on your biosketch. Even if you are heading to that company only if the grant is awarded (if-come basis), still list it and your position on your biosketch. Even if you are a full-time faculty member and hold a founding member position within the company, list it. Included in this tip is that you need to continually update your biosketch with appointments, positions and publications. Think of your biosketch as a living document and revisit it often so it’s ready to go at a moment’s notice.

These tips will help strengthen your biosketch but be sure to read the instructions and follow all requirements related to formatting and page limits. A final tip is to send your biosketch to a colleague for review—they may think of something pretty spectacular about you and your career that you simply forgot to mention. Good luck!