The confidential nature of research grants poses a challenge for new writers and researchers who are unfamiliar with grant proposals. The best way to learn how to write grants—by far—is to start writing grants as part of a team with experienced grant writers. This allows one to learn while doing under the tutelage of those who have honed their skills writing proposals for a variety of projects and funders. And, as I have said before, serving as a peer reviewer should be a required experience for every writer of grants.
For those unable to enter grant writing through these tried and true avenues, or for grant writers seeking to better understand what a funder’s “ideal” proposal looks like, sample grant proposals can prove quite valuable…and extremely hard to come by. For obvious reasons, these proposals are confidential. Getting a mentor or a colleague to share a proposal can seem a major victory, until you start asking yourself some key questions: Was this project funded? What were reviewers’ comments? What worked (and is worthy of emulation), and what did not? How old is this thing?
For all of these reasons and more, vetted samples of funded proposals can be invaluable to new writers of grants. Fortunately, some researchers share their funded proposals via funders’ web sites. After all, funders want applicants to understand what they are looking for so they can receive high-quality proposals. Continue reading “New Grant Samples! Get Them While They Are Fresh!”
Today, we support your New Year’s resolution to buckle down on grant writing by offering you information about where to find sample applications and how to use them:
When training people to write grants, I use examples and am often asked by my clients for sample proposals. Obviously, my client proposals are confidential, so sharing them is absolutely out of the question. I don’t even talk about my projects with my family, I’m a vault. So the question still stands, where can you find good sample applications?
Some grant writing books have samples, but usually they are discrete sections of the application, and context can be lost. That doesn’t help the new grant writer get the sense of how the sections of the application all fit together. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) web site has a very well thought-out grant preparation section that you should definitely investigate, but it lacks samples as well. However, one of the NIH’s institutes, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), has an application development section with sample applications and summary statements for R01, R03, R21, R21/R33, and F31 opportunities, and sample applications for the SBIR/STTR applications: R41, R42, R43, and R44.
These are samples of well-written applications, or, as NIAID puts it, “sound examples of good grantsmanship.” However, some of these sample applications were written in response to older opportunities, and so they may not reflect the current form sets or requirements. Their value, as the value of any sample of writing should be, is not in detailed “copying” of the approach, but in demonstrating how ideas are articulated in each section and how the sections hang together to form the complete application.
Where can using sample applications go wrong? Seeing these or any other writing examples as “templates” is a mistake. As the saying goes, you do you. Also, reading the sample applications without reading the sample summary statements leaves you with half the story. Take the time to read the feedback on the sample–it will give you great insight into what the reviewers like and dislike in applications.
Other Sample Materials
The page has other samples you will likely find useful, including a sample data sharing plan and sample model organism sharing plans. Links to the NIH’s biographical sketch samples will also be useful to most grant writers, if they haven’t found them already at the NIH site. I review NIH biosketch strategies in several places on this blog.
One Last Thought
Ask your mentor and members of your department who have had success in grant writing if they have any proposals you may review and use as a guide for your own proposals. Of course, keep in mind that under US law each proposal is automatically copyrighted and the academic rules regarding plagiarism apply (of course). And, while you are asking, it wouldn’t hurt to ask if those trusted colleagues would be willing to review your application and offer feedback. Your grant application should have ample internal review by multiple people in and outside of your discipline before submission. But that’s a topic for another blog entry.