SOAR Intensive R-Grant Writers Workshop

Success in obtaining extramural funding is highly competitive and will likely become even more so in the foreseeable future. Grantsmanship is recognized nationally as an important tool to increase funding of already scientifically meritorious proposals.

The “Successfully Obtaining an R” (SOAR) Intensive R Grant Writers Workshop with Mock Study Section Program is a grantsmanship strategy program offered by the Office of Faculty Diversity and Development/Women’s Careers. It is directed by Helen Yin, Ph.D., Associate Dean, Women’s Careers.

SOAR uses small group interactive grantsmanship coaching to craft a fundable proposal. It is led by a senior grantsmanship coach (Dr. Yin and others). Participants will attend six weekly two-hour sessions in which they are engaged in peer review of each other’s target grant sections for that week. There are parallel workgroups for clinical/translational and for basic scientists.

We launched a successful pilot Workshop for the June 5, 2016, NIH submission cycle, in person. We are now pleased to announce our eleventh workshop for the June 2023 NIH submission cycle. We switched to a virtual format due to COVID-19 and to increase accessibility.

The first participants of the pilot workshop for the June 2016 Cycle.

Mock Study Sections

The mock study sections are for clinical translational and basic science grants are reviewed seperately by mock study section reviewers. The grant writers are required to attend in order for their grants to be reviewed.

Mock Study Section Reviewers from a 2016 Session provide their critiques to the grant writers.

Target Audience

Assistant and Associate Professors conducting basic, translational, or clinical research who are actively writing their R-series NIH grants (e.g. R01) for the target NIH submission cycle.

SOAR Workshop Schedule

Session No.TopicDate
1 Specific Aims I February 22, 2024
2 Research Strategy I: Significance/Innovation February 29, 2024
3 Research Strategy II: Approach I March 7, 2024
4 Specific Aims II March 21, 2024
5 Research Strategy III: Approach II March 28, 2024
6 Specific Aim III, biosketch, and other sections April 4, 2024
7A Submit final grants to Helen Yin, for distribution to Mock Study Section Members April 22, 2024
7B Attend Mock Study Section May 7, 8, or 9th


SOAR Outcomes and Metrics

We tracked both participant self-evaluation of readiness for submitting an R01 level grant and funding outcomes. Participants are ask to complete a questionnaire based on that from the Duke grantsmanship program immediately after their target grant submission deadline. Both the clinical/translational and basic science workgroups reported at least a one-point increase in self-assessment in each domain, and more increase in many other domains. Thus, the SOAR Intensive R-Grant Writer Workshops are valuable for both clinical/translational and basic science faculty.

Table 1. SOAR Pre- and Post-Responses from SOAR Cohorts 7 & 8. Responses were displayed using Wilcoxon signed ranked test and presented in box-and-whisker diagrams


Clinical/Translational Workgroup (n =7)

Basic Science Workgroup (n = 8)


Median (upper and lower quartile)


Median (upper and lower quartile)


Median (upper and lower quartile)


Median (upper and lower quartile)

Communicating your research project plan

5.0 (2.8-6.0)

7.2 (7.0-8.0)

6.0 (5-6.5)

7.0 (6.0-8.0)

Designing a research project

6.0 (4.8-7.0)

7.7 (7.0-8.2)

7.0 (6.0-7.3)

8.0 (6.5-8.5)

Communicating the significance/innovation of your research

4.0 (3.0-5.2)

8.0 (6.8-9.0)

6.0 (5.0-7.0)

8.0 (6.0-9.0)

Support for preparing for an independent career

5.5 (4.8-7.2)

8.0 (6.8-8.2)

6.0 (5.0-7.5)

7.0 (5.5-9.0)

Support for obtaining research funding

5.0 (3.8-6.0)

7.5 (6.8-8.0)

6.0 (5.0-7.5)

7.0 (6.0-8.4)

Support for professional development

5.0 (4.0-7.2)

7.5 (7.0-9.0)

7.0 (5.0-7.4)

7.0 (5.5-8.4)


The grant submission and funding outcomes of two recent cohorts are above the national average grant funding success, estimated at 21.4% in FY2021.


Table 2. Summary of SOAR Intensive R-Grant Writers Workshop Outcomes

(Combined data from Cohorts 7 and 8 - Feb.2020 and Oct. 2021 NIH Submission Cycles)

Clinical/Translational Workgroups

Basic Science Workgroups



% Who Submitted on Target

% Funded at A0

% Writers Funded

(A0 & A1)



% Who Submitted on Target

% Funded at A0

% Writers Funded

(A0 & A1)

7 (6 MDs, 1 PhD)




8 (5 PhDs, 3 MD/PhDs)