Release Date: November 22, 2016
Category: Scientific Grant Writing
Author: Sonia M., Ph.D., E.L.S.
Let’s face it—writing a grant is hard, time-consuming work, and the competition for grant funds can be fierce. Is there anything that can help give you an edge and increase your chances of funding? Yes! Making sure that your grant proposal is well written and well thought-out will help your proposal stand out and convince reviewers that you are worth the investment. One way to maximize the quality and clarity of your proposal is to seek grant consulting. This assistance may come in the form of a colleague or a professional grant consultant, writer, or editor. In this article, we will provide information about the types of assistance that may be helpful to you at different steps in the grant writing process and how to get the most from outside help.
In scientific and biomedical fields, everyone is very familiar with funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Science Foundation (NSF); however, there are other governmental (e.g., DoD) and foundation (e.g., Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, American Heart Association) agencies for funding. These funding sources may turn out to be a better fit for your proposed research. In fact, sometimes there can be so many choices that it is hard to decide where to apply.
Talking to colleagues in your field and established faculty researchers is a great way to find new opportunities. These researchers may have applied for or received funding from lesser-known sources that may be an excellent fit for your research topic(s). Importantly, the application process, review criteria, and overall culture of each agency or foundation is unique. If your colleagues received feedback on their funded (or rejected) proposal from these funding agencies or foundations, ask if they are willing to share the feedback with you. It may provide an even better opportunity to gauge how well your research will fit the funding agency’s mission and scope.
A grant consulting service can also help by discussing your needs (e.g., funds needed, scope of project) and taking the time to search for opportunities that best fit your needs. If you are considering this option, make sure that the consultant you are working with is very knowledgeable about funding opportunities and has experience helping clients get grants funded.
Once you have determined what type of grant proposal you want to write and where you will send it, you may have trouble deciding what your next step is and how to start writing your proposal. Again, talking to experienced colleagues who have a lot of experience writing grant proposals can be very helpful. They can share tips for how they approach grant planning and the writing process.
If your colleagues are strapped for time or you’d like an outside perspective, a grant consultant can guide you through the process, working with you to create a timeline that breaks the requirements into manageable segments. They can also help you manage your time so you can revise your proposal, have colleagues or other researchers read and provide feedback, and make changes before submitting the application. A good consultant can also provide advice about areas you may need to emphasize and what information is most critical to include. You want someone who will listen to your specific questions and concerns and can create an individual preparation plan that considers your strengths and weaknesses.
Before you submit your proposal to the funding agency, you will want someone else (e.g., a colleague, mentor, outside expert) to read your proposal and identify areas that are weak and/or unclear. If you are asking a busy colleague to provide feedback, it can be helpful to let them know which areas you are most concerned with and would like feedback on. You may want to have a colleague or friend who is very knowledgeable about the subject focus on the content and another person who is great with grammar and proofreading check the final proposal to make sure there are no embarrassing grammatical or typographical errors.
A professional grant consultant can provide all of these review services as well. They may work with a team of professionals who have in-depth content knowledge, have extensive experience with funding agencies, and can provide expert language polishing to improve the grantsmanship. Review and revision will allow you to feel more confident, because you will submit a strong proposal that puts your best foot forward, which maximizes your chances of being funded.
Once you have submitted your grant proposal, you have to wait until you receive feedback from the funding agency. If you are funded, congratulations! If you aren’t funded, the critiques provided by reviewers will be incredibly helpful when you reapply for funding. If any of the critiques are unclear or you don’t understand why a reviewer made the comment, there are several helpful people you can ask, including your colleagues, the program officer (if applicable), or a grant consultant. These individuals can bring a new perspective to the critique and clarify where your initial proposal may have been unclear.
Once you have modified your proposal based on the reviewer comments, it is very helpful to have a colleague or grant consultant review your new proposal and the comments to see how well you addressed their concerns. They can point out are areas that are still unclear or where you might have glossed over a reviewer comment.
Grant writing is a time-consuming process, so you want to ensure that you submit your best ideas in a polished proposal every time to maximize your chances of funding. It’s perfectly fine, even encouraged, to ask for help along the way to aid you in accomplishing your goal!
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