Connor Tankersley
Connor Tankersley
Helios Scholar
School: BASIS Phoenix
Hometown: Phoenix, Arizona
Daily Mentor: Timothy Whitsett, PhD; Sophia Carvalho, PhD
PI: Timothy Whitsett, PhD

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Streamlining and simplifying the scientific writing process at TGen

The concise, accurate dissemination of information through effective writing is an integral aspect of every step in translational medicine: from the first outline of an idea, to manuscript and grant writing, to the collaborative communication of ideas between researchers and clinicians and ultimately communicating ideas to the wider public. However, the science writing process at present can be difficult and prolonged, ultimately drawing time and resources away from the life-saving endeavors TGen scientists contribute to daily, instead of acting as the bridge that it should be between researchers, patients, and the public. Currently, there exists an unmet need at TGen to ensure scientific writing is supported, so as to foster and synergize with research innovations without hindering them. For my 2022 Helios Project, I focused on improving scientific writing at TGen in three areas: 1) developing and administering a survey to better understand the areas in which science writing services can be improved; 2) streamlining and developing templates for commonly-used NIH grant documents; and 3) creating an outline for high-risk/high-reward pitch pieces for the TGen Foundation. Through the survey, I evaluated scientific writing needs at TGen by polling TGen faculty, research staff, and postdoctoral fellows. Results revealed that a majority of respondents spend their time primarily writing grants and manuscripts. Many identified time constraints and scientific review as significant barriers to efficient writing, and expressed interest in honing their grant- and manuscript-writing skills through continued learning. Critically, many were unaware of the SAge program at TGen, an internal committee of writers and editors who review and revise the Specific Aims page of a grant. In streamlining commonly used NIH grant documents, I edited and/or created fillable templates for Letters of Support, Multi-PI Plans and Data Sharing documents. In an effort to support the TGen Foundation’s efforts to more effectively connect philanthropy to the life-changing research and innovations at TGen, I constructed a template for high-risk, high-reward project pitches. This template should lower the difficulty threshold inherent in carrying project conceptualizations forward, and encourage more investigators to share their ideas with prospective donors. My efforts this summer support the development of TGen’s scientific writing resource base, thereby promoting the transfer of knowledge to all who can benefit from it, whether they be at the research bench, in the hospital, or in the public sphere. Successful implementation of these tools will positively impact the mission of TGen towards improved outcomes for patients and their families.