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R03/R21 Grant Writing Groups

About the Program

What: The West Virginia Clinical and Translational Science (WVCTSI) is offering an intensive grant writing program for clinical and translational investigators developing R03/R21 applications for submission to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The R03/R21 funding mechanism is offered by most all of the NIH Institutes and Centers and serves as an excellent first Research (R) grant award to enable investigators to obtain pilot data needed for an R01 or other major grant award. The R03 writing group program is structured as a facilitated group writing process (approximately 3 clinical and translational investigators to 1 faculty facilitator) which features a series of 2 hour “works-in-progress” sessions prior to an upcoming NIH submission deadline. Each session focuses on a different part of the grant with emphasis on strategies to improve communication of ideas. Prior to each session, participants will send their latest version of the relevant section to all R03/R21 writing group members and the faculty facilitator. All participants will arrive to the next session having read the others’ grant sections to provide thoughtful and constructive feedback to their colleagues.

Note: This grant writing program will not focus on the scientific content and research design of the planned R03/R21 award application. Each participant must develop the content of their Approach Section.

We strongly encourage each participant to develop a writing team for this section of the application that includes several experienced NIH-funded faculty who are experts in the research topic(s) of the proposal.

Why: The NIH R03 grant awards are designed to assist investigators will obtaining pilot data, including development of methods, surveys, etc. and/or collect results to demonstrate the feasibility of a proposed research investigation, need for successful develop their research program as an independent investigator. The R03 grant is an investigator-initiated research proposal that is limited in duration (typically 1 or 2 years), award amount, and is non-renewable. The NIH Institutes and Centers will often provide support for R03 awards in a targeted research area in order to support the development of innovative research ideas.

The R21 grant mechanism is intended to encourage exploratory/developmental research by providing support for the early and conceptual stages of project development. The NIH has standardized the Exploratory/Developmental Grant (R21) application characteristics, requirements, preparation, and review procedures in order to accommodate investigator-initiated (unsolicited) grant applications.

When: The R03/R21 writing group meet 6 times on Tuesday afternoons followed by a final review of the entire proposal at a one-on-one meeting with their facilitator.

In addition to feedback from the members of their R03/R21 writing group, participants are strongly encouraged to obtain feedback from colleagues, mentors, and content experts on their grant proposal. Whenever possible, participants should interact with their potential NIH Program Officer at their targeted funding agency well in advance of the submission deadline. 

Who should consider applying: Faculty appointed as Assistant Professor, Associate Professor, Clinical Specialty Fellows, Research Assistant/Associate Professors and Postdocs interested in clinical and/or translational research careers.

Please note that space to participate in this program is limited.

An application is required.  Applicants must be willing to meet with their R03/R21 writing group every week for a period of 6 weeks and participate in a final review of their completed application.

How to Apply: The following constitutes the application for the WVCTSI R03 writing group in a signed letter with the following information and attach your NIH Biosketch:

  1. A brief abstract of the research idea you are proposing for a R03/R21 award
  2. A brief description of why your research idea is suitable for a R03/R21 award
  3. Include the Program Announcement (PA; Number and Title) for your application
  4. Include the NIH Institute or Center which supports the R03/R21 PA listed above which you anticipate will support your research idea.
  5. Please state your commitment to attend each of the planned group R03/R21 writing group meetings, keep discussions confidential, and your willingness to provide constructive feedback to the other participants in your writing group who are also preparing an application for an R03 award.
  6. If you are a Postdoc or Research Assistant/Associate Professor, please include a signed letter of support from your Supervisor and/or Department Chair that includes the following information:
    1. a commitment to provide you with protected time for your participation in the WVCTSI R03/R21 Grant Writing Group and
    2. a commitment for you to conduct the proposed research activities in their laboratory or research facility during the R03/R21 award period.


Note: The R03/R21 award is limited in amount so that only a portion of a participant’s percent effort and salary may be covered by this award.

The next R03/R21 Grant Writing Group will begin meeting in August 2024 for the October 16 NIH submission deadline. Click here for a full schedule.

Applications should be submitted to: Joan M. Lakoski, PhD, Director of Proposal Development, WVCTSI (email: is available to address questions regarding this program.

Applications must be submitted by 5 p.m. EST on March 15, 2024