Thursday, March 24, 2011

Research Funding: Resources for the Long and Winding Road

by Alfiee M. Breland-Noble, PhD; Duke University Medical Center

I learned about the process of grant writing for research during my 2nd year in my first tenure track position. Prior to this introduction, I was very unfamiliar with grant writing and had a very different area of research interest from what I pursue currently. Mine was definitely a long and winding road to federal funding, but once I began, I developed what one of my mentors calls RPD or Research Personality Disorder J.

My path was once filled with doubts about my ability to succeed in what I perceived to be a very closed and special circle. Over time and with a lot of encouragement from my family, peers and mentors, I discovered that I had many great ideas to channel into a research career. These days, many people know my story and the very different path I took to my current federally funded career. I want to share some of my experiences with you to provide you with some of the wisdom that was provided for me when I embarked on my journey. I think that one of the most powerful lessons I learned was the lesson of self-confidence. One of my mentors, Dr. Jessica Henderson Daniel at Children’s Hospital Boston (Harvard), told me once that I belonged in a research career. I have never forgotten that and I pass that wisdom along to anyone reading this with a dream of pursuing full time research. I have spoken often about what I call my “3 S’s”, self-assurance, support and stamina and I recently published my thoughts in this regard in the Journal of Clinical Psychology in Medical Settings. I encourage you to read that article as it contains not only my insights, but those of some of my great colleagues who are also active in APA Division 12.

Sanders, K.A., Breland-Noble, A.M.; King, C. & Cubic, B. (2011). Pathways to success for psychologists in academic health centers: From early career to emeritus. Journal of Clinical Psychology in Medical Settings, 17:315–325.

The path to a research career truly varies by individual, but one thing that I believe to be universal to this type of career is a calling to be diligent, focused and perseverant. In my opinion, this type of career is definitely requires the stamina and focus of the tortoise (of the famed fable) instead of the quickness of the hare. Through my experiences, I discovered that I am genuinely excited by the research endeavor, from generating an idea, to creating a research plan, to implementing the plan and reviewing the results. I hope that any of you with a desire to pursue research will do so wholeheartedly. There are many people in our communities, families, and profession who want to see you succeed, including me! I believe that it is imperative for us to continue to develop a cadre of clinical and laboratory investigators who will help address the problems faced by diverse peoples. Your insights as persons invested in diversity are immeasurable and I, along with many others, am counting on you to bring your energy and drive to the research enterprise. I have a saying that I share with young investigators and early career psychologists to remind them to get focused and stay that way. The saying is “BE THE TREE” and it refers to remaining grounded in yourself and your beliefs as you progress in your career. So I say to you all, “BE THE TREE!” and I send you my best wishes for a clear focus, hard-work and increasing success.

I have a PowerPoint presentation available that I used recently when presenting to a group of aspiring federal investigators related to creating a grant budget. You can get a copy from Dr. Acevedo-Polakovich, who is one of these I hope that you find it helpful. While this presentation is very specific and focused on just one aspect of obtaining federal funding, there are a number of resources you can access for “self-training” on the process of becoming a federally funded investigator. I am providing links to some of these resources as well. Best Wishes!

Dr. Alfiee M. Breland-Noble

Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences

Duke University Medical Center


Sanders, K.A., Breland-Noble, A.M.; King, C. & Cubic, B. (2011). Pathways to success for psychologists in academic health centers: From early career to emeritus. Journal of Clinical Psychology in Medical Settings, 17:315–325.

NIH Regional Seminar University of Pennsylvania in 2010:

The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases New Investigator Guide to NIH Funding:”

The NIH Grants Policy Statement (10/1/2010):

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