Yesterday, I attended a lecture by Peter Wagner about grant-writing. The talk focused on grants in the sciences, and I will pass on Dr. Wagner’s advice to my loyal readers.
Three Golden Rules
- After writing each section of the grant, re-read it as if you were a reviewer.
- Finish the grant application at least 2 weeks before the due date.
- Put the grant away for at least 1 week. Then go back and re-read it.
Other helpful tips
- You proposal will be valuable if it is: 1) novel and can contributes significant knowledge to the field, 2) is technically feasibly and uses sound methodology, 3) can test your hypothesis as definitely as the state of the art permits.
- The abstract is the most important part of your grant application. Make sure it is concise and generates interest in your project even among those who are not specialists in your field. Be sure reviewers can easily answer the question “Who cares?” when reading over the grant application. Also, do not put any references in the abstract.
- For the sciences, the objective of your grant application should be the additional knowledge you wish to be gained from the study. The specific aims are the broad steps that need to be accomplished in order to accomplish your objective. For instance, if going to Seattle for a conferences is your goal, then the specific aims would be: book a flight, reserve a hotel room, register for the conference, etc.
- Dr. Wagner recommends that in the Methods section, the subheadings should relate to each specific aim. For instance, “Experimental Design for Specific Aim 1.”
- Your literature review should be concise but also display that you have an understanding of the field. Be sure to include all major papers in the field. Also, include papers whose methodology you will use or will expand in your methodology. If possible, check who will be on the reviewing committee. If a reviewer has published papers that are relevant to your area of study, be sure to cite them in your grant application.
- Be sure to justify your budget. Do not say “15% of Joe Blogg’s time is required therefore 15% of salary is requested.” Instead, spell out in detail the time requirements including set-up, execution, data analysis and writing up the finished product. Also, justify expenses for equipment, supplies and travel. If you can’t answer the question “Why couldn’t you have done this for 80% of the budget you are proposing,” then you have not sufficiently justified your budget.
See also: Wagner (1991) “On writing a grant application. A personal view.” Physiologist. 1991 Apr;34(2):29-31.