Tips for Winning Your Grant Application
Industry Insight Jul 16, 2014
If you are seeking funding for research, be warned: your search will not be easy! A number of reports lately have pointed out that fewer grants are being funded and cite the difficulty in getting the grants that are available. Even so, grants are being awarded so it behooves the savvy researcher to pay close attention to advice on how to succeed.
What to do Right
Expert after expert agrees that there are several key criteria to keep in mind when assembling your grant proposal, but above all it is important to be clear, organized, and detailed.
It seems obvious, but perhaps one of the most important criteria to get right is having an interesting objective to your research. It has to stand out. This means that the grants with the most likelihood of being funded propose ideas that push the frontiers of knowledge, with multidisciplinary approaches. Hence, your research proposal has to come across as significant, novel, ambitious and original. Remember that your success will reflect upon the organization that funds your research. But don’t brag and don’t make unsustainable promises. In fact, emphasize the long-term prospects with a strong research plan.
Originality is Important
While the significance of your grant scores points, of course the most important issue is the research you hope to pursue. It is vitally important that you provide not only information that supports your hypotheses but that you also discuss how you will deal with potential obstacles. To this end, you should emphasize why you want to investigate these aims and why the outcome of your research is important. Spend time pointing out the significance of your work in the larger context of science knowledge, and show how scientific knowledge will be expanded because of your work. You should also provide alternative approaches and contingency plans in the event your original approaches do not work. Explain how your data will be analyzed and how the results will be interpreted.
Your research plan needs to be very explicit about why it should be done in the first place. You need to answer the question “who cares?” very emphatically by describing how your proposed research addresses a gap or problem area.
Be Clear and Concise
Write the research plan concisely, with clear objectives and a well-defined experimental strategy. Be detailed about your research data and methods; explain what is required to do the work proposed. You’ll need to highlight your understanding of what it will take to solve the problem you are tackling. In addition to tackling a question that is important and original, the strongest research proposals have promising long-term prospects. You may only be asking for funding for five years, but it is wise to include how your research could and should expand downstream. Having said that, you do need to be realistic about the extent and feasibility of your project.
For your proposal to be effective, it needs to be written well. First impressions count! Your proposal should not only clearly present your research idea and strategy in a logical, coherent way that’s readily understandable for both experts and laymen alike, but it should emphasize the most important points and not get side-tracked into detailing every item you hope to cover. Focus and clarity are important for your grant proposal success.
A big part of writing clearly is writing descriptively and organizing your material logically. Develop an informative title, use well-defined acronyms (and define all acronyms the first time they’re used), and put each piece of information under the appropriate heading. Make the grant reviewer's job easy and you’re a good way to making it to the top choice pile.
Emphasize Your Strengths
You’ll want to support your qualifications with a publication record that includes papers relevant to your research proposal. If you have a research team, then emphasize the strengths of each team member and their combined publication records. It is important however to point out that you are the main researcher in the project and your role in that position beyond managing the team’s work.
Where to Search for Funding
There are a number of places you can search online for information. There are sites that list different funding programs. Sites that provide information on how to get through the first round of evaluation. Sites that advise readers on how to get to the top of the applicant pile. Even advice on how to deal with disappointment when you don’t succeed. One thing that all these sites agree on is that getting a grant is not easy. A quick Google search will list a number of online sources where you can search for information about different funding programs. Good luck!