Writing a research paper can seem like a complex process, but at its most basic it is relatively straightforward. You explain what you did, and why, so the reviewers are convinced that your study was sound, and your findings and conclusions are important and robust. Writing a grant application is much more complicated, and an exciting research idea is only part of what you need to write about in a successful grant application. If you need an Expert to edit or review your grant proposal, you should also select an Expert that knows about these complications and specializes in grant proposal support. Dr. Chris St Pourçain is such an Expert and we asked him about it. He writes:
I have seen the grant funding process from both sides: as a successful grant applicant (as Principal Investigator) and for ten years as the manager of the grant application and assessment process for the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), the largest funder of non-medical life-science research in the UK. I have read hundreds and hundreds of grant applications and seen hundreds more assessed, with probably every combination of peer review imaginable.
Too often grant applicants approach writing a grant application in the same way that they write a paper for publication in a journal. They focus too much on their research idea, believing that the brilliance of their idea is enough to make their application stand out and convince everyone their grant should be funded. But successful grant applications do not just convince the assessors that the research idea is exciting, they also need to convince the assessors that the structure, planning and management of the research proposed are well thought out, that the experiments proposed are feasible, and that the project and budget will be competently managed.
Of course, funders want to fund exciting research ideas, but they also need evidence that if they take the risk and give you the money, it will result in research outcomes that contribute to their strategic priorities, policies and goals.
Here are just some of the other things you need to think carefully about when writing a grant application:
- Do you have experience of managing successful research projects or grants?
- Have you explained clearly what the expected outcomes of the research are?
- Have you successfully used the methods and techniques you are proposing before? If not, are you collaborating with people who have?
- Have you explained what staff you need for the project and exactly what expertise they have and which parts of the project they will do?
- Have you carefully thought about the most difficult parts of the project and what you will do if those parts do not work? Are the objectives still achievable if one part fails?
- Have you carefully thought what equipment and materials you already have and what else you need? Have you budgeted realistically for these things (asking for too little is often as bad as asking for too much) and justified why they are needed?
- Funders often ask for explanations such as how your project fits with a particular funding scheme or with the funder’s strategic priorities or what the impact on society will be. These requests sometimes seem unusual, irrelevant or even ill-informed, but they are important to the funder. So, have you answered them positively and constructively?
Grant funding is fiercely competitive. Funds are always limited, and there is usually not enough money to fund all the excellent applications. Success rates are rarely above 25% and often in single figures. The complexity and variety of grant funding can seem daunting, but this is where people who have experience of grant funding can help, in particular people who have had grants funded, people who have served on grant assessment committees and people with experience of managing grant funding.
Dr. Chris St Pourçain now is a freelance Expert, offering his services through Peerwith. If you want to hire Chris for a job, let him edit or review your grant application, you can request his service through Peerwith.Expert.