The Award Lifecycle

Biosketches and Vitae

The Curriculum Vitae (CV), literally the “course of life,” may also be referred to as a biographical sketch (or Biosketch) by some sponsors.Many sponsors have specific formatting and page-length restrictions.

Whose biosketch or vita should be included in a grant proposal?

The primary answer is which ones are required by the sponsor.  Beyond requirements, you should consider which additional ones are permitted by the sponsor. 

If sponsor guidelines permit, CVs of personnel playing a significant role in the project may be included. This would include all professional personnel involved in the project: associated faculty members, major collaborators from other institutions, postdoctoral research associates, and so on. Also included are Subcontract PIs and co-PIs, Consultants, Collaborators, or Evaluators. In short, anyone who is making a substantial contribution to the project deserves, and ought, to have his/her vita included when possible.

Why is the Biosketch or Vita so important in the proposal process?

Among the most important factors considered by reviewers in rating a proposal are the past track record of the applicant and the ability of the applicant to perform the studies outlined in the proposal. The competence of the people proposed as researchers has much to do with whether or not the project will yield meaningful results. The biographical sketch is the only way by which reviewers can evaluate the researcher's competence, and often must serve as his/her only credentials. The Reviewer often examines your CV immediately after reading your project description--that is when he or she mentally decides who you are professionally. In addition to an understanding of your research achievements and credentials, the Reviewer may be trying to determine: Are you also a collegial citizen of the university? Are you professional? Do you take your teaching seriously? Are you well-rounded? Are you broadly or narrowly educated? Are you disciplinary or interdisciplinary? The CV should reveal a professional persona appropriate to the granting agency and the type of award.

What is a typical format?

The Biosketch or CV included in a grant application is a different document than the resume you would prepare to apply for a job or the academic CV you maintain to document your full professional career. The sponsor usually limits its length, sometimes to as little as 1-2 pages. There may be very detailed instructions for the format and contents of the CV.  The reviewers need to be able to find the information they need quickly and easily, which means it needs to be where they expect to find it and in the format they expect. Even when the sponsor does not specify the format, the biographical information should be limited in scope and carefully prepared, and should focus on information relevant to your research career.

NSF and NIH Samples

Sample biosketches for NSF and NIH are included under Related Content at the right. These two sponsors have very specific and strict requirements regarding what can be included.