In order to be successful in obtaining funding for your clinical research, you need to be creative, set your goals, and look for different sources of funding.
Writing a detailed written plan of the study (a study protocol) is essential for funding since the protocol is the scientific component of any proposal, this proposal also contains administrative and supporting information required by any funding agency.
Any investigator who is working on a research protocol for a trial should begin by seeking advice from colleagues about the choice of a funding agency (ideally someone who has been through the process before). Then the investigator should carefully review agency’s written guidelines – ensure that the proposal is written in a way that highlights how the proposed research aligns with the priorities of the funding agency. Be aware that the process of writing a proposal usually takes much longer than expected, and this process should include the following aspects: organizing a team with the necessary expertise, finding a model proposal, outlining the proposal along the agency guidelines, and having regular meetings with the whole team for reviewing the progress. Colleagues should review the proposal; this will give the investigator the opportunity to identify flaws and ensure a consistent and logical argument. If at all possible, find a colleague who has experience in judging funding applications.
It is becoming more common for funding bodies to require that you have involved patients or other non-clinical stakeholders in the design and development of your study. The extent of patient consultation expected will necessarily vary depending on the scope of the study you are proposing. Many research institutions and kidney health advocacy organizations are establishing bodies of patient representatives who are available to review study protocols and materials intended to be provided to participants (see “Involving patients in the research process”). Also, be aware that some funding bodies now involve patients or other lay members of the public in reviewing funding applications – meaning that a simple language summary of your proposal that is written for a non-medical audience is often useful.
- Communicate clearly and concisely
- Follow a logical outline
- Indicate the advantages, disadvantages and trade-offs made in the study plan as this anticipates criticisms that reviewers may have
- The merits of the proposal should stand out so that a busy reviewer will not miss them.
- In many countries, government sources (e.g. NIH) are available. They often have a complex peer and administrative review process that moves slowly but encourages good science.
- Foundations and societies like the ISN Clinical Research Program who are often interested in promising research questions, and have review procedures that are quicker but also encouraging good science. Many national kidney societies also have research funding programs.
- Manufactures of drugs and devices are a very large source of support that is usually channeled to company-run studies of new drugs or medical devices, however corporations value partnerships with leading scientists and support some investigator initiated research.
- Intramural funds tend to have more favorable funding rates for getting small amounts of money quickly, and are suitable for pilot studies and beginning investigators. They may be a useful source of seed funding that, if used successfully, can result in a stronger case for a larger grant later on.