Grant application suggestions
See the publication
suggestions also for general instructions that apply
here. These are important considerations for reviewers during a
grant application review based on my experience as both a writer and
as a reviewer (see my
CV for more details). While this by no means a guarantee of
success (and conversely, some of these comments are not generally
applicable), just following this as a recipe I think will put you a
notch over other applications that don't.
The most important thing you can do to learn how to write grant
applications is to serve on study sections and review panels. If you
can't do that, then read my notes on what happens in a study
- Avoid using weak language like "we plan to..." or "we
can...". Say "we will" whenever possible instead. Be forceful.
- Know your program officer and the goals of the program you're
applying to. Look at the composition of study sections that are likely
to review your application and try to determine likely
reviewers. Even though you can't predict who will review the
application, put yourself in their shoes as you write the
application and think "if so-and-so read this application, what
would their reaction be?"
- Avoid careless mistakes and proofread
carefully. Typographical, spelling, grammar, and punctation errors,
incorrect page numbers, poor layout and organisation will simply
antagonise overworked reviewers.
- Specific aims should each consist of three sentences that explain
what you're going to do, how you're going to do it, and why it is
important (the latter two can be reversed).
- Start your specific aims with action verbs, i.e., "Create...",
Background and significance
- Compare yourself to other relevant work being performed in this
- Indicate what is novel with what you are doing and why you're
most qualified to do it.
- End section stressing the significance of what you're doing.
- Have a LOT of preliminary results.
- The more papers you have, the better it is. Even if you have
great preliminary results, people aren't going to believe you until
you have published papers.
- Propose good controls for everything you do. Try hard to figure
out and explain what the odds are of obtaining a particular result
you expect to obtain by chance.
Research design and methods
- Depending on mechanism and budget, tailor application to be
focused and narrow for research projects; expansive for program
project (still should revolve around single ideas). Have a mix of
mostly conservative (60-70%) and a few innovative (but not too radical)
ideas, especially for the NIH.
- Have good collaborations to apply/validate/support the research
findings (i.e., collaborate with experimentalists to apply
computational techniques developed for validation purposes). Find a
specific problem/application to work on and focus on that, instead
of proposing broad solutions.
- Follow up with the SRA to see if you can submit an addendum
that describes incremental/latest work you've done since the grant
application was submitted. This shows to the reviewers that you're
still serious about the project.
- If you've gotten a great score/rating, do keep in touch with
the program officer and make sure everything goes smoothly.
- If you're on the edge of a payline, don't be shy
about negotiating short-term intermediate funding (in NIH
language, this is known as "select pay").
- Take reviewer comments seriously when you respond (even if you
don't agree with them).
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