Tips on building a successful CBR application

In February 2022, CIHR and III hosted a webinar with information on how to apply for CIHR funding opportunities for community-based research (CBR) on HIV/AIDS and STBBI. Part of the webinar included past CBR Chairs and reviewers, and past CBR grantees who were asked to share some insights and tips on building and submitting a successful funding application.

We’ve highlighted some of those tips and suggestions to support your application process. 

On writing your proposal

  • Are you unsure on how to lay out your proposal?
    • Use the evaluation criteria as your headers to walk the reviewers through your proposal easily.
    • Complete all sections listed in the funding opportunity and address criteria explicitly rather than assuming the reviewer will know what you mean.
  • Are you writing your proposal clearly and free of jargon?
    • Writing understandable content so that your intent and rationale is clear to the reviewers is one recommended approach.
  • Is all of the critical information in the body of your proposal?
    • Don’t bury information that is required for someone to understand the work or the feasibility of the work (e.g., research timeline) in appendices.
    • That said, don’t be afraid to take advantage of the optional sections to provide reviewers more information such as specific details that enhance understanding.
    • If you are re-submitting your application, include responses to reviewers in a clear manner and outline how the application has improved in response to the input (e.g. Use the comments and questions as sub-headings and as space permits address each comment directly, etc.)
  • What question are your trying to answer with your research?
    • In your proposal don’t forget to frame that question, highlight the methods you will use, and highlight who you are bringing together to work on this.

On meaningful engagement with communities and partnership building

  • Are your partnerships authentic and meaningful?
    • Where community members are not leading the work, demonstrating that community partners are fully involved in developing the research methods/question is key.
    • Describe in detail the community engagement.
  • Have you included letters of support from community partners?
    • Are they involved in the research?
  • Remember your CBR principles!
    • Be explicit about how you are working together, how you will meet community needs, and what impacts will result from the research.
  • Are mentorships part of your proposal?             
    • Mentoring relationships are a crucial part of CBR.
  • Does your team have the right balance of experience, expertise, and representation?
    • If so, are they included as principal investigators or co-investigators?
    • Reviewers look at the CVs to see if the team has the right complement.

On your research methodology

  • Does your methodology address your research question?
  • Could you pass this to someone and have them replicate the study?
    • Make sure you have a strong scientific methodology.

On your budget

  • Does your budget align with to your proposal?
    • For example, ensure you have allocated funds for community-based activities (hospitality costs for events, renumeration for community members) knowledge mobilization, etc.

On managing ResearchNet

  • Become familiar with ResearchNet ahead of time and add your information as you go along – don’t wait until the last minute!
  • Entering the budget is time consuming – leave plenty of time for this.
  • Save frequently! ResearchNet will boot you out of the system after a period of inactivity (this tip is brought to you by CIHR).

Our guests also shared some final important insights for applicants to consider:

  • Don’t get discouraged. If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again!
  • If you are interested in reviewing applications, CIHR is always looking for reviewers. It is a good way to see what’s on the other side of the grant application process.
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