The answer will come in a moment.

I just spent a “fun” weekend working on a multi-PI, multi-institution NIH grant proposal. It was a very interesting experience to see the different styles of operation for the various PI’s as it came down to the wire.

Some were just disengaged. Those were the ones that threw some text our way and said “here you go”.

Some were just the opposite – one of my friends and colleagues spent a number of all-nighters working on this. Ouch.

I was the “pain in the ass” of the group – the one who would pick on the stuff other people wrote and tell them it needed to be better. By better, I mean explain things more clearly, explain “why” the work is important, and so on. Actually, I didn’t really pick on people – I just did a lot of rewriting.

This grant illuminated several things for me:
1. I used to do the all-nighter thing. But I have realized I’m far more effective if I have had sleep than if not. I feel like I was about 10x more productive on this proposal (and hence it was about 10x easier) than in the past. I’ll blog more about how I accomplished that in the future.

2. I used to be sort of “timid” about letting my opinion be known. But when I’ve done that in the past, often the things I could have fixed didn’t get fixed, and we didn’t get the grant. This time I let my opinion be known. I think the end product was better as a result.

3. Most grant writers don’t think like “marketers.” Instead, they think “oh, I have to describe how I’m going to do X, Y, and Z.” I’m not using marketer in the negative sense here, but simply someone who has a good “product” (scientific project) to offer, and wants to see the maximal chance of the “product” succeeding in the marketplace (review). In my opinion, to have a high chance of getting a grant funded these days, you have to have both: great product and great marketing. If either is missing, your chances are low.

So, now that the grant ordeal is over, I’m back to blogging more often. My next target is to talk a bit about effective time management in your science career. I’ve had enough of grant stuff for a while.

Get your free “8 concepts of grant writing success” report to learn some key strategies I’ve used on all my major grant proposals.

ps – The answer to the subject line is that it is a wee bit important to avoid “having a cow” when you’re writing a grant proposal. Being calm and focused will make the end product far better, and far more likely to get funded.

2 thoughts

  1. You are so right that most researchers think they need to describe what they are going to “do” and that this isn’t quite what is required. In fact, I saw one tweet recently wondering why the funder didn’t just ask for objectives and methodology! I explained why the context section was important and he asked if anyone really read it!!!!

    OMG. With the level of competition there is now, the likely significance of your research is the thing that is going to get anyone to read your methodology. Then all they need to know about the methods is whether they are going to get you the results you want, whether it’s feasible, and whether it is rigourous.

    I always feel like this should be obvious, but clearly it isn’t. Maybe folks still don’t really understand that the people who aren’t getting funding are excellent scientists/researchers. Maybe they are still telling themselves that all good work will be funded. Not sure. But there isn’t enough money floating around for that.

    I agree about your sleep point, too. Working long hours on a regular basis is actually unproductive.

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