Stephanie Sodero and Zofia Bednarowska

The best way to master grant writing is to learn from our colleagues who have received funding. During the CeMoRe event “Making Money for Research” we gathered international CeMoRe visitors and associates to discuss the art and craft of successful bid writing. Enjoy a cup of coffee (or oh so British tea) and read these 7 tips to enrich your grant writing knowledge.

  1. First, start with a work plan. It may sound obvious but grant applications always eat up way more time than you expect. Plan your approach. Bullet each action item. Early in the process, ask more experienced colleagues to review your application. Budget time to rework your proposal, if needed. There is a strong possibility that by the end (even one day before the deadline!) a technical issue might throw off your schedule, so plan ahead.
  2. Second, (and this may come as a surprise), your application must be enticing. Basically, you must make the panel want to read your application. Imagine being on the other side of the game. Grant review committees read hundreds of pages. Give them a gift and share your enthusiasm.
  3. Third, use the proposal as an intellectual endeavor. Before writing, pitch your idea out loud (to yourself, a colleague, your beloved cat) in two minutes to make sure you know what you want to say. Make your application clear, accessible and simple. State in the first sentence the problem and project scope. Try posing an insightful question to engage the reviewer. The research problem must be defined with the highest level of clarity. Even the most complex scientific problem can be written in an accessible way so a non-specialist reader can understand it in one read through (see Bill Nye the Science Guy).
  4. Fourth, find solid partners. It is beneficial to collaborate beyond academia, as it offers the potential for real-world impact. Remember, however, that every new partner adds more work to wrapping up the final application. Make sure the added research value of working with the partners is clearly stated.
  5. Fifth, a crucial issue is deliverability. Take time to reflect and ensure your commitments are realistic. A realistic approach will impress reviewers more than an approach that is overly ambitious (and unrealizable).
  6. Sixth, every aspect of the proposal needs to be of excellent quality. Granting-getting is a competitive game. Devote time to reviewing each component. Imagine your grant being read by a reviewer at 11pm … on a Friday night … the night before a much-needed vacation. Make it as easy as possible for them to follow the thread of your argument. It is important not to repeat any text, even if you feel tempted to copy and paste sections because some of the application components sound similar. Always add new formulations of an idea.
  7. Last but not least, put your heart into it so that grant writing brings you a ray of joy! Even though success rates are low, you can always translate your hard work into article!