Adapt the personal statement on your biosketch to the specific grant

Steve Simon


When you are asked to prepare a biosketch for a research grant, you should adapt the personal statement of the biosketch to highlight the specific skills that you have that would be needed for this grant. This is the wrong time to be bashful. Find anything that you can brag about that would be relevant.

For most of the grants I am on, the only thing worth highlighting is my experience in statistical consulting and my track record of peer-reviewed publication, so I really don’t change the personal statement all that much. I might add a sentence or two about how many of my consulting projects or publications have specialized in X, where X is the medical specialty or discipline associated with that grant. Recently, though, I had to submit a grant where I needed to emphasize things beyond just my statistical consulting skills. This included (1) my knowledge and bakground in the ethical conduct of research, (2) my familiarity with a particular statistical methodology, and (3) my skills in programming. Here’s what I wrote:

As a statistical consultant with over 30 years of experience, I fervently believe that statisticians play one of the most important roles in insuring the ethical conduct of research. We consultants are often the first ones to discuss with the researcher pivotal issues in research that are fundamental in the careful balance between the needs of the scientists and the respect for the human volunteers who will participate in the research. This belief has been reflected in all of my work experiences, as well. In my twelve years as a statistical consultant at Children’s Mercy Hospital, I worked closely with their Institutional Review Board (IRB) to develop and teach continuing education classes on the ethical conduct of research. I also served for six years as vice chairman for an executive committee at Kansas University Medical Center that provided oversight for every Data Safety and Monitoring Board that was needed for research. At my current job at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, I assisted with the overhaul of the Responsible Conduct of Research class and have provided several guest lectures. I write regularly about ethical issues associated with statistical design issues for my website ( and blog (

As a consultant, I was so often asked to assist with decisions to close down studies because of delays in accrual that I decided to make this a research interest of mine. I conducted an audit of records at the Children’s Mercy IRB that quantified serious problems with failure to define accrual targets and the inability of more than 50% of those studies to meet the target enrollment figures. When I presented some of my preliminary thoughts on how to monitor accrual at the Biostatistics Journal Club at Kansas University Medical Center, Byron Gajewski suggested a Bayesian approach. The resulting collaboration has led to a series of publications and has attracted the interest and support of the University of Kansas Cancer Center.

I have an outstanding track record in dissemination of research results. I have over 80 peer reviewed publications, three of which have won awards. I have published a book about the statistical aspects of Evidence-Based Medicine and have a contract to produce a second book. I am the author of a website ( with over 1,700 pages about Statistics, Evidence-Based Medicine, and research ethics. I also have an email newsletter about Statistics (The Monthly Mean) with over 500 subscribers.

I also have a strong programming background. I have working knowledge of almost every major Statistical package, and have published several articles back in the 1980s evaluating the numerical accuracy of regression and ANOVA procedures in these packages. I have presented seminars and taught short courses on programming in SAS, SPSS, and R. I submitted code in R to a programming contest sponsored by Revolution Analytics and won an honorable mention in that competition. I am currently the president of the Kansas City Area R Users group. I have made many presentations and demonstrations to this group and have also published many helpful R programming tips and resources on my website and blog. In August 2013, I attended a half day short course, “Practical Software Engineering for Statisticians” taught by Murray Stokely of Google, and gained valuable experience with software development methodologies (e.g., version control, unit testing), that are vital for production of software by a research team.

You can find an earlier version of this page on my blog.