January 12, 2017

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The PDS Narrative
a newsletter from
Proposal Development Services
Office of the Vice Provost for Research

Occasionally issues of the PDS Narrative will focus on specific components of grant applications. This issue highlights the biographical sketch or biographical narrative required by many funding agencies.

Optimizing your biographical sketch
Investigator biographical sketches (“biosketches”) are required for most grant applications. By conveying the training, experience, and expertise of the researcher(s) involved, as well as the strengths and resources of their institution(s), a well-crafted biosketch helps convince reviewers the proposed project is ideally situated for success.

Biosketch format varies. While the NIH and NSF request biosketch information in a structured outline, other agencies and foundations may request a narrative biography or a personal statement accompanied by a CV.  Regardless of format, the information presented must always clearly answer the question: “Why am I [or in the case of a multi-investigator project, why is this team] best-suited to carry out this project?” Keeping this top of mind will ensure reviewers can advocate for you in the review process.

When composing your biosketch, familiarize yourself with and closely follow the specific guidelines set forth by the funding agency to avoid disqualifying your application on technical grounds. Start early. Use a style guide to ensure consistent citations. Verify whether weblinks are permitted; if so, make sure they work.  Proofread, then proofread again. Following are some additional considerations. 


  • Personal, research, or contributions statement. Craft your statement to sell your ability to conduct the proposed research. Tailor it and your goals to the specific funding mechanism. Show excitement for your research. Be confident, but not arrogant, in discussing your experience and skills. Your writing just needs to show a confident, coherent grasp of the field and your preparation. Speak to the science or scholarship of your proposal and its import. It's OK to use the first person. 
  • Publications. When a subset of your publications must be listed, be selective and strategic. If you're proposing to lead a complex proposal, highlight collaborative peer-reviewed publications with first authorship, and review the biosketches of other key personnel to ensure they also support the proposal as strategically as possible. If you are applying for a training grant, show work with students and postdocs. Early career investigators should highlight publications arising from their dissertations which connect to the proposed project, or where possible, demonstrate a history of publishing independently or with collaborators other than your advisor.
  • Institution. Underscore the strengths and resources of your team and institution. If the proposed work requires collaboration, mentoring, or community partnership, describe your team's experience with this. If IU has a strong reputation in your area of study, be sure to emphasize it. 
  • Technical and other expertise. Be sure to draw attention to your unique skills or expertise required for success. If you are proposing digital or technical work, make sure you list the appropriate expertise on your team. For humanities projects, for example, emphasize appropriate language skills and cultural experience. 
  • Funding. List other grants and support you have received fairly recently, both internal and external. This will demonstrate that others have invested in your work. Help the reviewers understand where your work has been, and where you will take it with their support. 
  • Tap OVPR and online resources. Search for samples of biographical sketches and guidance on writing them online, e.g. from the NEH, NIH, NSFACLS and more. Contact PDS to request a review from a research development specialist.

Creating a bioeketch with SciENcv and ORCID

SciENcv (Science Experts Network Curriculum Vitae) is a free, user-friendly service which enables researchers to create biosketches for federal grant applications. Although it is offered through the NIH, anyone who creates a profile in the NIH's MyNCBI website can use it to create, download and share biosketches in PDF, Word or XML format. Fully editable profiles can be created from scratch, by using information from an external source, or by using an existing SciENcv biosketch as a template. For more information, a video introduction to SciENcv and a PDF overview can be found online.  

ORCID is a free non-proprietary Open Researcher and Contributor ID system which enables researchers to register for a persistent digital identifier to attach to all of their publications, datasets and research outputs to ensure they are are uniquely connected to them. Launched in 2012, ORCID now comprises over 2.9 million registered users, and each year it is required by more publishers and academic institutions worldwide. A short video explains how profile, citation and funding information stored in ORCID can be linked directly to SciENcv. If you're interested in an ORCID ID, learn more or register online. 

Proposal Development Services offers grantsmanship and proposal management support to IU Bloomington faculty applying for external research funding. Learn more about our services on the OVPR website, or request to work with a PDS specialist at ovprhelp@indiana.edu.