Grant Writing Considerations Sean Gallagher
Three key things • You • Your science • Your proposal
You • Start during your PhD, i.e. now • Don’t wait till you’re finished to write up, publish now • Track Record
You • Conferences • Awards • Scholarships • Grant writing for your boss • experience
You • Significant contribution to science • Community involvement • Conference organisation • Self-promotion – how do you do it? • (without being seen to be arrogant) • What is ‘relative to opportunity’?
Your science • How well do you know your science? • Do you have a strategy? • What’s the common theme? • What is the big picture?
Your science • How does your science rate internationally? • Is it stamp collecting? • Are you competitive? • Are you at the forefront? • What strategies can you employ to get there?
Your science • How valuable to society is your science? • How do you find out? • Why should it matter?
Your proposal • Why apply for funding? • How does the university benefit? • What is the peer-review process?
1. Ambition • impression of importance – a combination of content and perception →this project is worth doing • there should be some measurable health outcome • Aims & hypothesis – strong & bold & profound
Language • active, exciting – “doing, not being” • Means to an end: attain, evaluate, obtain, assess. →use determine, develop, design, establish… • avoid unnecessary repetition
Language • turn negatives or shortcomings into opportunities. “challenges that need tackling” or “problems that need solving” – if possible, set up your prop such that this can be achieved or partly achieved. → this leads to innovation.
2. Structure • Title • Short intro (1/3 page) (SMH level) - outline broader theme - relevance/importance - stats (% and numbers) - humanise - key issues/hot topics of area - problem → Aims & Hypothesis
Aims • Strong, bold • 3 Maximum • Ambitious → project → you • Linchpin for the whole proposal
Hypothesis • Not too many – 1 per aim • Bold • Fact-in-waiting • In the positive
Background • Background relevant to the aims • what’s relevant? → what does the assessor need to know to understand this proposal? • keep literature review to what is needed • Build your case • Keep tight
Research Plan • Clear and strong link between aims and methods →“to achieve the aims, the project employs a three-phase strategy…” • Bold key words in aims and repeat them in headings of relevant phases • Use an accepted method • No clangers
Outcomes and significance • Don’t forget it! • Short-term and longer-term outcomes • Health outcomes • Impact • New knowledge • National Research Priorities • 2/3 page
4. Layout • Sub-headings • Diagrams • Graphs • Flow charts • Photos • Dot points • Short paragraphs • Rule of thumb → there should not be a single page of just text
What is your point? • Subheadings – use them to convey information • E.g. Exercise → Lack of exercise leads to obesity • Pack the punch at the beginning of the paragraph → space saver!
Brownie points • Finish your proposal in less than 9 pages!
5. Innovation • What is it? Or What is a project? • It can be the ‘what’ • It can be the ‘how’ • Problems or obstacles are opportunities to be innovative • Not just the outcome but the process
How do you show innovation? • Not just once or twice in the prop • The whole document should have a feel of innovation • new, novel, for the first time, break new ground, innovative, never before, etc • But how? →”The challenge will be to solve X. To achieve this, we will use a new method…”
One last point on innovation • What problems are you solving along the way to achieve your aims?
6. New Knowledge • What new knowledge are you creating? • Who will be interested in this new knowledge? • Think beyond end-user and your field • Think about other fields • Think wider impact • Think laterally
Knowledge is your currency • Try to avoid “understanding, address, consider, investigate” • Knowledge is the currency • Talk about creating new knowledge orcreating new science orcreating new medical knowledge…
Big picture • Who will be interested in this new knowledge? • Educators, clinicians, researchers, health planning services, W.H.O., drug companies, manufacturers… • What perception are you creating? → connected with the big picture or 60 hours a week in the lab?
7. Impact and Significance • ‘NOW’ factor → why should this project get fundednow? • Impact – end-user - field of research - other fields of research - wider • (what new knowledge are you creating?)
NOW • Urgency – crisis - worsening problem - small window of opportunity • Strategic – will this project lead to bigger and better things? →i.e. more research
8. Return on investment • Self check • Now, with an objective eye, ask yourself: →”Is the NHMRC going to get a good return on their investment?”
9. Pilot Studies • Key results – showing that aims are achievable –proof of concept • Method – it works • You – you have learnt from the pilot and are proficient, skilled-up.
10. Track Record • Relative to opportunity • Don’t be a whinger or negative. Instead be positive: →”In addition to the papers reported here, I teach 3rd year physics, supervise 5 PhD students and am actively involved in the running of the department…” • If you don’t say, they won’t know → sickness, parental leave, caring duties
TR • select a few seminal papers and mention the citation/year rate for them (even if outside 6 years). Add one line of comment about the paper. • demonstrate wider interest in your work - “my work has been cited in several fields, not just biochemistry, such as…” • do NOT include ‘submitted’ papers. put “manuscript submitted” or “manuscript in preparation” in your progress reports
TR • do NOT ‘inadvertently’ put in an extra year of your papers – keep to the maximum of 6 years • be careful about book chapters – have they been reviewed? • avoid “leader”, “pioneer’ type labels – demonstrate by outcomes such as awards, prizes, elected to this board or that council, etc.
TR • don’t be too grandiose about achievements but rather use more impersonal statement of fact. →“Our group developed this method, which is now being used in labs in Cambridge and MIT.”
How to get started? • Apply for internal funding • Faculty • Sesqui • Apply for New Investigators Grant • Be an associate investigator on projects • Come and see me • Read Research Office Bulletins