One of the required sections of an R01 grant application is the “Project Summary/Abstract”. There are two unique things about this section of the application that are very important from a grantsmanship perspective: (1) The abstract is the only section of the grant that is publicly accessible on the NIH grants database when it gets awarded. (2) The abstract is the only section of the grant that is included–along with the summary statement from the previous project period–in the materials that the reviewers see when you submit a competing renewal of the grant.
Among other things to include in the abstract, a recent post at NIH OER Nexus lists the following:
Include the project’s broad, long-term objectives and specific aims
Taken literally, this would seem to imply that you should literally list the three Specific Aims of your grant. Don’t do this! Only describe the aims of the grant in broad general terms.
The reason for this is that you don’t want the reviewers of your competing renewal to be able to compare in detail exactly what you accomplished in terms of published results in the previous project period to the exact metes and bounds of the Specific Aims of that project period. You want to be able to have as much freedom as possible to explain how your research accomplishments forwarded the overall broad goals of the grant, without being hemmed in by minute details of what you originally proposed.
In the olden days–when grant reviewers wrote long-winded summaries of the Specific Aims as part of their critiques–what you put in the abstract didn’t matter, because the details of the Aims could be gleaned from the body of the summary statement. But now that the new critique format has done away with this almost completely, the most detailed information the reviewers have about the Specific Aims of the previous project period come from the abstract. So don’t give them shitte to fucke you around with!