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How to Stimulate Proposal Development on the Cheap

Although the conventional wisdom is that the way to win more research grant awards is to get researchers writing more proposals, incentives to do so can be tough on your institution’s bottom line, says Robert Porter, PhD, Director of Research Development at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. There are, however, a variety of inexpensive ways to stimulate proposal development. Here are just a few ideas:

In-House Workshops  Sending researchers to grant writing courses or bringing consultants to your campus can be expensive  and yield questionable returns, Porter says. Instead, put together a “home-grown” workshop, enlisting your own research personnel and grant-savvy faculty to lead the workshop. Offer a series of workshops on a regular basis, first focusing on basic grant writing skills, and then supplementing with instruction on specific funding agencies.

Mentorship – Few institutions offer structured mentoring programs for young scientists. If your institution isn’t one of those few, consider setting up your young researchers with more seasoned faculty as their mentors. “Young investigators can find themselves in a lonely “sink or swim” environment when it comes to sponsored research, and many are hesitant to approach experienced grant writers on their own,” Porter points out.

More experienced mentors can help to stimulate proposal development and guide the younger researcher along the path to grant success, Porter says. Try to match up the researcher with a mentor who has experience in the particular research ideas and funding agencies similar to that of the younger scientist.

Also, provide young researchers with a senior faculty member or grants specialist in your institution who can coach and edit proposals. Many researchers struggle with grant writing, especially when they’re switching from dense academic prose to a concise, energetic style for grant proposals. “This is where the grants specialist as a coach and editor can provide help that could make the difference between failure and success,” Porter says.

Web-Based Tutorials  “There is a wealth of fine grant writing tutorials online, but few new investigators know where they are,” Porter notes. You can post hot links to these resources on your research office’s web page, and even include the links in newsletters and other channels of institutional communications.

For NIH grant writing tips, check out the resources on the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) web page: https://www.niaid.nih.gov/grants-contracts/prepare-your-application 

Also, found on the NIAID site are an assortment of successful grant applications: https://www.niaid.nih.gov/grants-contracts/sample-applications

Also, take a look at the University of Tennessee’s website for a Grantseekers Tool Kit, containing many guides, articles and manuals, at: https://research.utk.edu/proposal-support/toolkit/ 

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