Tips for Drafting an NIH Biosketch

An NIH biographical sketch, also know as a biosketch, is essentially a CV or resume in a very specific format following specific guidelines to highlight scientific health-related research. The NIH biosketch is an essential component of an NIH grant application. Understanding how to format a biosketch is key to a successful grant application.

Specific Tips for the NIH Biosketch

  1. Write a unique, thoughtful, compelling personal statement about why you should lead this project.
  2. All professional positions/experience, volunteer experience, awards, committees served on, consulting should be in Section B.
  3. Section C should be broken in 5 subsections of your research with 1-4 citations. Do NOT cut and paste a full bibliography in this section.
  4. With the new format, grants are listed in Section A, with the personal statement.

Biosketch Formatting

Formatting requirements for NIH biosketches can be found on the NIH website. Be sure to note that different grant due dates require different versions of the NIH biosketch. Every few years the formatting guidelines change, and after a certain due date/deadline, all grants must use the new format.

In my experience working with new investigators and particularly with PIs on Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grants to the NIH, Section C proves to be the most challenging. The most common mistake I see here is a investigators inserting either a list of patents, citations, URLs, or combination of these. Arbitrary lists of citations or patents don’t really help reviewers understand your accomplishments and contributions, and they aren’t likely to conduct a web search to figure out what you’ve done and who you are. Additionally, URLs are actually not allowed anywhere in the application and are seen as an attempt to circumvent page limits.

How to organization Biosketch Section C. Contributions to Science

Section C is broken down into subsections of different “areas” where you’ve contributed to science. There will be a numbered header, then a paragraph description of the research/innovation area then up to 4 citations (they can be for research publications or patents) to support that contribution.

For example, if I were to write my biosketch, in section C, there would be a section for the following:

C. Contributions to Science

1. Patient advocacy and engagement in living donation kidney transplant. In collaboration with Dr. Amy Waterman, I have conducted qualitative research with the Transplant Research and Education Center (TREC) on patient advocacy and patient engagement and its impact on living donation kidney transplant (LDKT) rates. I coordinated the recruitment through social media of living donors and living donor kidney recipients for the Living Donation Storytelling Project and designed and launched the pilot Living Donation Storytelling Project campaign through social media channels in early 2019. I also conducted and published an extensive literature review on the use of first-person storytelling on patient behaviors and health outcomes.

  1. Lipsey, A. F., A. D. Waterman, E. H. Wood and W. Balliet (2020). “Evaluation of first-person storytelling on changing health-related attitudes, knowledge, behaviors, and outcomes: A scoping review.” Patient Educ Couns 103(10): 1922-1934.
  2. Waterman, A. D., C. Anderson, A. Alem, J. D. Peipert, J. L. Beaumont, S. L. Henry, B. Dub, L. Ambriz, N. Bijjala, A. F. Lipsey and B. Mittman (2019). “A randomized controlled trial of Explore Transplant at Home to improve transplant knowledge and decision-making for CKD 3-5 patients at Kaiser Permanente Southern California.” BMC Nephrol 20(1): 78.
  3. Waterman, A. D., A. F. Lipsey, O. N. Ranasinghe, E. H. Wood, C. Anderson, C. Bozzolo, S. L. Henry, B. Dub and B. Mittman (2020). “Recommendations for Systematizing Transplant Education Within a Care Delivery System for Patients With Chronic Kidney Disease Stages 3 to 5.” Prog Transplant 30(2): 76-87.
  4. Waterman, A. D., J. D. Peipert, Y. Cui, J. L. Beaumont, A. Paiva, A. F. Lipsey, C. S. Anderson and M. L. Robbins (2021). “Your Path to Transplant: A randomized controlled trial of a tailored expert system intervention to increase knowledge, attitudes, and pursuit of kidney transplant.” Am J Transplant 21(3): 1186-1196.

Questions about how to include something in a biosketch to demonstrate your expertise in the most compelling way? Leave a comment or question below.

Leave a Reply