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NNLM PSR Announces Three Funding Program Updates!

Posted by on November 15th, 2018 Posted in: Advocacy, Funding, Membership, Outreach

NNLM PSR has completed three projects related to our funding program. First, please visit our map of funded awards. This new website lets you zoom in on activities in your area and provides a brief overview of funded projects from 2016 to the present. Most entries include links to articles or other press about project achievements, and in the future we hope to include personal success stories from award recipients! Second, we added a funding guide to the NNLM PSR website, designed to answer common questions about the application process and provide a reference for award recipients to understand and comply with NNLM reporting guidelines. If you need forms, have questions about terminology, or want to know which awards are available, you’ll want to bookmark this resource. Our third project, a funding survey that closed in early October, gathered feedback about ideal outreach funding scenarios and barriers to applying for awards. Fifty-three PSR Network members responded to the survey. Although the current grant year’s funding cycle is halfway over, this exercise gave us valuable insight into our awards process that we will use in 2019 and beyond!

Overall, most respondents felt the NNLM PSR awards program is adequate, but it’s clear that we need to refine our marketing/publicity efforts. Nearly 70% of respondents have not applied for funding, and 42% cited a “lack of knowledge about funding opportunities” as the most significant barrier for not applying for an award. Institutional barriers such as a “lack of staff resources” (36%) or “lack of time” (36%) to implement a project were expected, but we were encouraged to see that very few respondents found the application process “difficult or time-consuming.”

Popular Awards

Early in the survey we asked, “What type of funding award would be most helpful to your organization?” The top three answers were Health Literacy (55%), Health Outreach (49%), and Technology Enhancement (43%).

Although we expected more interest in Disaster Preparedness from members in our region, the responses to this question dovetail with NLM’s emphasis on data science and developing partnerships with public libraries. Network members were also asked open-ended questions about ideal funding scenarios. The question that garnered the greatest response was, “If time and personnel were not a consideration, is there a ‘moonshot’ project that you would pursue to expand health information services in your community?” Some of the innovative ideas offered were:

  • “Conduct a joint project with my city’s fire department/EMS on home safety for seniors.”
  • “Host a community-wide, interdisciplinary, multiple hospital event to beta-test best practices and tools of mobile health apps to effectively triage simulated victims of mass casualty incidents… We have many university students interested in giving back to our community, but they are not trained professionals yet. This would allow them to practice and prepare at the general citizenship level while capitalizing on their tech savviness and enthusiasm to support their immediate communities.”
  • “Conduct mini-sessions for the community and student body with medical experts. Would support CA State Pathway/CTE [career technical education] initiative.”

There were also great suggestions to provide better resources for non-English speakers, partner with campus research centers, and help consumers navigate the healthcare system. All of the presented ideas have been recorded, and we hope to implement some of them in targeted award offerings in 2019.

Proposal Assistance

To gauge interest in receiving help with proposal development, we posed a few questions about writing assistance or training. The responses to most questions were overwhelmingly positive. For example, 80% of respondents answered yes to the question, “Would you be interested in grant-writing assistance?”

Some respondents offered suggestions to make the award application process easier:

  • “Provide examples of successful proposals.”
  • “Walk me through a successful grant or two and general information about what NNLM is looking for in a compelling proposal.”
  • “I could still use training on reporting/assessment.”
  • “How should I scope projects for funding opportunities (i.e., how do I decide what type of project might lend itself to funding)?”

We also asked about specific forms of support in the question, “Would any of the following resources make it easier for your organization to apply for funding?”

The vast majority of respondents (90%) noted that award templates would be helpful, and more than half were interested in writing assistance (61%) and/or grant-writing training (51%). Nearly 80% of respondents were interested in a mini-site showing funded projects. As mentioned above, the good news is that we recently posted an interactive map of our recent awards. Check it out!

In conjunction with questions about proposal assistance, we asked which health education topics are of most interest for promotional purposes. For subject matter, the most selected topics were technology-focused (e.g., integrating technology into instruction; producing online videos; designing mobile health apps) or broad-based (e.g., promoting consumer health literacy; partnering with community groups). The highest-rated topic, evidence-based medicine (EBM) (44%), was somewhat of a surprise on a list with 25 options, but that may reflect EBM’s relevance to medical students, clinicians, and policymakers as well as information scientists. MedlinePlus (64%), PubMed (52%), and mobile apps (55%), all longstanding popular NLM resources, topped the list for resources to highlight in a potential project.


Funding is an important part of NNLM’s mission, and we are thankful that more than 50 people took the time to complete the survey. Following are some major takeaways:

  • Diversify our award offerings. In addition to reframing our “bread and butter” funding awards to be more flexible (the limited time window to apply was a common criticism), respondents felt we need to vary our award offerings. More support for interprofessional exchange and professional development was requested, and some people requested awards geared toward specific fields such as nutrition, nursing, or consumer health.
  • Offer grant development assistance. Traditionally, NNLM PSR has not provided assistance with submitting or crafting an award application, but results showed that we may want to reconsider that policy. In 2019, we hope to offer resources for first-time applicants and access to a mentor or coach who can answer questions both pre- and post-award. Recently, we added an Award Interest Form to the NNLM PSR website. We’re happy to review award ideas at any time!
  • Provide alternative leadership models. As with our previous surveys, most respondents were from either academic health sciences libraries or hospital libraries. However, a few respondents were curious how outreach awards would look for organizations where the library is not the lead conducting the project. This scenario, where a research center or community-based organization administers outreach activities, is not common, but we have sponsored awards of this type in the past and welcome applications from any Network member.
  • Increase the frequency of award announcements. Currently, we promote funding on the PSR-News list, the NNLM PSR website, and our social media channels. Several respondents encouraged us to distribute frequent reminders just prior to and during the award application period. We agree that communication is the key to any successful endeavor, and will aim to provide regular announcements about funding opportunities throughout the year.

Many thanks to everyone who took the time to fill out the questionnaire! Your feedback is greatly appreciated and will help shape the RML’s future funding awards. If you have questions about anything presented in this article or would like to discuss funding opportunities, please contact the NNLM PSR office.

Image of the author ABOUT Lynwood Lord
Lynwood Lord is the Office Manager for the Pacific Southwest Region of the National Network of Libraries of Medicine located at UCLA.

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Phone: (310) 825-2183
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This project is funded by the National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, Department of Health and Human Services, under Cooperative Agreement Number UG4LM012341 with the UCLA Louise M. Darling Biomedical Library.

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