Grant Writing 2013: What is wrong, who am I, and why get help?
The massive problem
Grants used to be a “friendly competition” amongst peers. If you had a good idea and a good track record, then wrote a decent proposal, you’d often get funding. Perhaps it would take a few rounds of resubmission for that to happen, but lots of people had plenty of success with it.
But with over 10 years of flat budgets at the NIH and NSF, with no positive changes in sight, a creeping brutality has entered into the grant competition. Lots of people who were funded are no longer funded. Labs are closing, and science is suffering.
We didn’t get into science to struggle with repeated, rejected grants.
It is a waste of time. It is a waste of human talent. It is a waste of resources. In fact, by my calculations, over 892,656 human hours are now wasted every year writing NIH grant applications, alone.
This is a travesty.
Why the problem is getting worse
There’s an academic culture of individualism. It says this: once we get to the stage of being a professor, we are at the top. We are the teachers, the educators, the people-in-charge. We don’t need more training, especially not in “distracting” things like grant writing.
Yet, imagine if this same attitude applied to playing piano in a symphony. Imagine that you’re trying to get invited to play at Carnegie Hall, and yet you’ve never had more than a few short seminars on “piano playing.”
It just isn’t going to cut it. You’d never make it to the stage.
Grant writing is a fine art, a fine skill of nuanced communication, much like playing the piano. As the competition gets more brutal, the level of professional skill that you must bring to the table is steadily increasing.
As a tenured associate professor at UNC Chapel Hill – who’d first gone through severe struggles with my grants, then found a mentor who helped transform that into incredible successes (like four R01′s funded in a row on the first round of submission) – I saw so many of my colleagues struggle with this. It really pained me.
Plus, I found that I loved clear communication. Having watched some scientists rise to great success, and others suffer in obscurity, and noting that a primary division between the two groups is communications ability. As a third-generation scientist, I decided to do something.
I formed a little consulting business to help a few colleagues out. Demand quickly exceeded the supply of my time. Eventually, I decided to walk away from my tenured academic job (while still being PI on over $1.1M in funded grants, including two R01′s, and RC2 at the time), to do this substantially part-time, then later, full-time.
My singular goal has been and is to help scientists become better, more efficient, more impactful communicators. This applies both to grant writing, and to all other scientific communications. Not only does this dramatically improve the odds of getting each grant written funded, but it improves your ability to communicate with the public about why your science is important. If a lot of us don’t start doing that, soon, then the funding declines in science are likely to continue.
My successes in helping scientists be more efficient at grant-getting
Since you may not know me, I want to briefly share a few successes with you.
In the past three years since starting, three of my students and clients have had perfect scoring R01 proposals. That’s a “10″ score on the 10-90 NIH scoring scale, where lower is better. Perfect scoring proposals are RARE in the wild. To have three of them happen is unlikely to be random coincidence.
Sometimes people ask me for “statistics” on funding. While I’d love nothing more than to give you hard stats, there’s only one way I could provide valid statistics on success rates. That would be to perform a long-term study of students and a highly similar control group. That is an expensive and difficult proposition that goes beyond my current resources.
However, I can give you some success stories and appeal to your logic. The logic is simple: I have been highly successful myself, and I’ve had numerous highly successful students. I know what I’m doing. In all areas of human endeavor, when you choose to learn skills from someone, whom do you choose? Do you choose the person who’s already “mastered” that skill? How else would you choose?
I provide some quotes from real clients and students to back this up:
“Morgan Giddings online grant writing courses has totally changed my views on grant writing; I now enjoy the process, and I are able to help my lab members improve their grants.” — A. Laugen
“Since using what I learned, I have scored a program project planning grant, and our company’s SBIRs have done well with one Phase II at $1.2 million and another Phase I at $240K” — Bob H
“The recommendations of Morgan Giddings are extremely useful – I frequently pass them on to my students to prepare them for their PostDoc-careers.” –G. Soja
How to get help, NOW
Since you still don’t know me, and you may be naturally skeptical, I have this proposition for you.
Check out some of the FREE resources I have here for you. Sign up for my newsletter and/or the free technical reports and videos I have put together.
See if they are helpful to you. If they are, then seek deeper help from me.
From time to time, when I have availability of a class or consulting services, I’ll let you know.
I don’t openly advertise any but my most basic services here on the website, because I want you to first get a good sense of who I am and how I can help you.
If these FREE resources help you, and you never become a client, that’s fine too. It’s the least that I can do for the scientific community, to help us stop the death-spiral of rejected grants, despair, and closed labs.
It’s easy to procrastinate
“I’ll get help later.” I’ve heard that time and time again from people who think they are “too busy” to get help on this.
Then those same people go off and waste months and months of time writing rejected grant proposals. Sometimes they come back to me later for help. Often it is too late.
So, get these resources and USE them. It’s FREE. Ask questions. Post comments.
You can download several free resources right here, including the “Backdoor to Funding” report and a template for writing your Specific Aims / Summary Statement.