WRITING GRANT PROPOSALS: ADVICE FROM A GRANT REVIEWER Bernard Appiah, B.Pharm (Hons.) AuthorAID Graduate Assistant Texas A&M University firstname.lastname@example.org Sri Lanka, March 2010
OUTLINE • “Anatomy” of a Grant Reviewer • “Physiology” of a Grant Reviewer • Some “Bitter Pills” From Grant Reviews • Summary and Conclusion
“ANATOMY” OF A REVIEWER Employment? • A reviewer is typically not employed to review grants. • Grant review is just a voluntary exercise. Time: • Reviewers “squeeze” their time. • I review grants after a day’s work, sometimes when I am relaxing on my bed! • A very poor grant proposal makes me sleep faster (Good for my body?) • An excellent grant proposal makes me stay awake (Bad for my body?)
“PHYSIOLOGY” OF A REVIEWER Proposal Summary • It’s my door: I enter the application through it. Proposal Goals Vrs Funders’ Goals • I make these goals face each other. I judge your goals on a SMART scale: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-bound. • If they don’t match, an application is in trouble. • If they slightly match, an application begs me. • If they very much match, an application commands me.
“PHYSIOLOGY” OF A REVIEWER CONT’D Sitting in a Grant Application “Chair” • I look for background information that has more context (s). An application that makes claims without evidence (references) doesn’t help me. • I then evaluate ways applicants intend to achieve their objectives (methods), measure the objectives (evaluation), allocate money to meet the objectives (budget), and disseminate the findings. • A good application makes me sit comfortably. • A bad application makes me extra alert!
SOME “BITTER PILLS” FROM GRANT REVIEWS • CVs: Some CVs don’t fit in well with the application. Don’t give me a CV you wrote without this proposal in mind! • Lack of specific roles of applicants: Don’t tell me “X” is a team member. Oh yes! I already know from the application. • Not singing a funder’s song well: Good you know the funder’s song. But sing it well by introducing something special and “new”. • Goals that are not SMART
SOME “BITTER PILLS” FROM GRANT REVIEWS CONT’D • Budget: Some applicants do not match the budget and the activities together. • Collaboration: Effective collaboration with other researchers (or even students!) or stakeholders is often lacking. • Lack of research design: If you’d collect data—as measurement indicators—know that your proposal is a research. Know your research ethics! • Lack of editing: I don’t mark English, but poor English gives me more work!
SUMMARY AND CONCLUSION • A grant reviewer “squeezes” time and effort to help you and a funder, so help them too. • Know the song of the funder, and sing it well, so a reviewer could dance to your version. • Pay particular attention to the proposal summary. • Know that your proposal is research as long as you intend to collect some data to measure it. • Edit the application well before submission. • Command reviewers! Don’t beg them!