Grants and Research Proposals
Learn more about
- Why grant proposals are important
- How to write a grant proposal
- How proposals are evaluated
- How a scientific writer/editor can help
Why grant proposals are important and some thoughts on preparing them
Let’s be honest: scientific research costs money. Salaries, materials, overheads, capital expenditure and all sorts of other costs need to be covered if research is to be turned into innovation with real world benefits. Usually, that money comes in the form of grants and sponsorship from government organisations, charities, industry or other private sector organisations.
Apart from publishing research findings in scientific journals, the other critical part of a career in the sciences is to successfully raise the money to actually carry it out.
To do that usually involves applying for grants or other types of funding. And a key step in that process usually involves writing a grant proposal, a research proposal or an application for funding.
In much the same way that a scientific research paper tries to convince a reader of the merits of certain ideas or arguments, a grant proposal tries to persuade a funder to fund a certain project or research program. As such, a proposal will usually be judged on factors such as:
- Relevance to the funding organisation’s goals
- Achievability - whether that is at all or within certain timeframes
- Project management questions
- Timeliness - how might the project solve issues now or in the future?
- Innovation - how radical are the project’s goals in terms of what is currently known?
- Skills and facilities - do the individuals and organisations have the skills and facilities to successfully complete the project?
- Knowledge utilisation - how will the results be used (and communicated)?
- Funding level request - are they reasonable, justified, adequate or unrealistic (i.e. too high or low)?
- Is it understandable? This includes whether the ideas are understandable or even whether the language used is understandable
On the last point, it is absolutely critical to get this right. Your proposal may contain ideas that are world beating and revolutionary, but if no-one can understand them, they will unlikely get the funding they actually deserve. Competition for funding is often fierce, which means that careful preparation of a grant proposal can make the difference between success (receiving the funds) or otherwise.
As with preparing a scientific paper for a journal, the ideas need to be well worked out, you should follow any instructions, make sure the language (most likely English) is understandable and revise, revise, revise with many pairs of eyes on the job as possible.
In the coming period, I will be posting many tips and tricks on grant proposal writing in the blog.
Contact me if you need help with your next grant proposal (see below).
In the meantime, if you need help with preparing a grant proposal, read on to find out how a professional science writer/editor (like me) can help make a difference.
There are many good reasons to involve the help of a science writer/editor who specialises in scientific writing and grant proposals.
Firstly, they will likely have seen and worked on numerous grant proposals previously. This means they will have experience in terms of what might be required and will be able to advise you from an independent perspective. This is important as they can take a step back from the proposal to try to improve it without having the ownership (baggage) of the original authors (there is a blog post coming on this issue).
Secondly, they can help you with getting the language right in the proposal. This is from the perspective of improving the written English but also in terms of the tone and rhetoric used to ‘sell’ the proposal. Remember that a grant proposal is really a piece of marketing designed to sell you and your proposed project to the funder in the hope they will buy the idea. A good science writer should be able to help you get this right.
Another point to think about is that an experienced writer should also be able to act as your quality control. For example, if your writer can understand your proposal, then there is a good chance that a reviewer will as well. Remember, you are the expert in the room on your topic, but a science writer/editor should be able to understand what you are talking about even if it is a complex topic.
Lastly, if English is not your strongest language, but the grant needs to be written in English, you will find that an editor will help you improve the tone, style and quality of the written English in the proposal.
If you want my help with grant proposal writing, please get in touch with me (see below).
- Start early, and get your writer involved early on as well. This is particularly important if you have numerous collaborators and ideas still need to be worked out.
- Realise that your writer is not going to do all the writing for you. These are your ideas and you need to be able to express them in the first instance. So far, I have not yet met a writer who can mind read - but working with you, they can help express those ideas in ways that will sell.
- You need to let go of your words early on. Be prepared for words, sentences and paragraphs to change as you work with your writer/editor and collaborators. I will explain more in a blog post.
- Don’t expect much from anyone, especially an editor, if you ask them to look through your proposal a day before the deadline. In these circumstances, they will only be able to give superficial edits or suggestions.
- Make sure you match the technical level of the proposal to the people that will review the proposal - I will post more on this in the blog.
- As well as the writer/editor, make sure you get as many of your colleagues/collaborators involved in the grant proposal writing phase. They will need to buy into the project for a start. You may be living with the consequences for many years to come - if you are successful with the proposal.
- Grant and research proposals are a crucial step in the scientific process
- Successful grant proposal writing raises research funding and are crucial for career prospects
- Grant proposal writing takes time and is a team effort
- A science writer/editor can make a difference as an independent facilitator of the writing process