Hi again, this is Anna from the Netherlands. As a PhD student, my experience in grant writing is not extensive but I think it is enough for sharing in this post what has been a very interesting and learning experience during my PhD journey. I have been involved in requests for an extension of an already existing grant and a small local grant. But it was preparing a national grant that I realize what it was all about: how important it is to be able to “sell your ideas” in the right way. For this national grant I had the opportunity to work with very experienced PI’s and I learned a lot from them and the process. Overall, we spent a few months until the final version was ready to be submitted. Looking back, having a good idea might be the first step but also other aspects can contribute to a well-developed proposal. Below are my points:
- To define a good timeplan at the start: It took us months and several meetings to define the core objectives of our grant. A lot of objectives are interesting but a logic connection between them is essential. We also had to combine the grant work with everyone’s every day work and that is not always easy…it was my job to coordinate, together with the main PIs, everyone’s contribution to the grant proposal. Even if it sounds obvious, planning ahead (i.e. weekly deadlines) with everyone’s busy calendars is essential.
- To establish professional collaborations: I think that part of the success of our grant was because our project was based on a large national collaboration of experts from different disciplines. Also, we were able to ask these experts to critically review the proposal before it was submitted. And in the same way a paper improves with all comments from co-authors, having experts externals to the core group of the proposal also improves the quality of the proposal.
- To choose your words carefully: I learnt not to underestimate the power of the words, especially for the abstract. The best advice in this process was when one of the Principal Investigators (PIs) reminded me to use ‘sexy’ words! It sounds like a challenge for non-native English speakers but this does not mean using fancy and complicated words but rather making the grant attractive and simple for reviewers. These reviewers are probably reading a lot of proposals and making the proposal to the point will help the outcome
- Budget awareness: in my case, we could ask our financial department to help in the budget plan. However, I think it is important to be aware of this even at our stage as you will probably have a realistic view of the personnel/time needed for certain tasks.
The list continues but for now this might be enough food for thought. Anyone else has any other points?