Writing a grant application is a major undertaking. There are several components to a competitive grant application. First, the subject must be creative, exciting, and worthy of funding. Secondly, the project must be developed through a rigorous, well-defined experimental plan. Finally, the application is written in clear language and follows accurately the rules and guidelines detailed in the grant.
Do I apply?
- Assess competition in the field.
- Know the level of resources needed to compete.
- Do an organizational assessment.
- Look for opportunities to build research with support from various sources.
- Get a mentor.
- Know the opportunities in the field for
- collaboration with a known laboratory or mentor
- carving out a niche
- Find out which granting agencies seeking applications.
- Make sure you and your collaborators are properly trained for the research.
- Closely examine grant applications from previous successful grant awardees.
- Ask experienced grantees to provide you constructive criticism.
Reviewers would like to see in a good grant application:
- Is the proposal novel?
- Intellectual quality and merit of the study plan.
- What is its potential impact?
- Is the hypothesis valid and have you presented evidence supporting it?
- Are the research objectives logical? Can the research plan be achieved in a feasible timetable or overly ambitious?
- Are the experimental procedures appropriate, adequate, and feasible for the research?
- Is the research team qualified? Have they shown competence, credentials, and experience?
- Are the facilities adequate to the research?
- A strong grant application is one that is driven by a strong hypothesis. The hypothesis is the foundation of your application. Make sure it is solid. It must be important to the field, and you must have a means of testing it.
- Provide a rationale for the hypothesis. Make sure it’s based on current scientific literature. Consider alternative hypotheses. Your research plan will explain why you chose the one you selected.
- A good hypothesis should increase understanding of biologic processes, diseases, treatments and/or prevention.
- The proposal should be driven by a hypothesis, not by developing a method or advancing a technology.
- State your hypothesis in both the specific aims section of the research plan and the abstract.
Developing Your Research Plan
A research plan is a thoughtful, compelling, well-written document that outlines your exciting, unique research ideas that you propose to pursue over the next few years so to advance knowledge in your discipline and fulfill the granting agency mission and objectives.
Specific Aims: These are the objectives of your research project, what you want to accomplish. The project aims should be driven by the hypothesis you set out to test. Make sure they are highly focused.
The abstract is the most important section in your application. This is section that is read by all the grant committee as well as the reviewers. It must be understood by expert in the field and by non-scientific personnel.
Abstract should include hypotheses, objectives, approaches, research plan, and significance.
- State the hypotheses to be tested. Give the long-term objectives.
- State the specific aims.
- Highlight how your proposal is directly related to the mission and objectives of the granting agency.
- Write concisely the research design and methods.
- Highlight how your proposal stand out and worth funding.
This is an essential element of any proposal: it demonstrate credibility, experience and competence. Preliminary data often aid the reviewers in assessing the likelihood of the success of the proposed project.
If preliminary data is not generated already or published then it is usually the first step in any proposal. To increase success, know the literature well and focus on the critical/essential experiments that will make your proposal exciting to read.
Why start early on this section (usually 6 months before the grant LOI)?
– Start reviewing the literature. Start thinking of interesting future projects and innovative ideas (even risky). Discuss your ideas with others (brain storming).
– you may find gaps in your data that need to be fixed.
– experiments take time.
– formatting data takes significant amount of time.
Research Design and Methods
This describes how you propose to fulfill the specific aims in your proposal. Always reference, but do not describe standard procedures. If you feel certain procedures are not widely known, describing such procedure is important for reviewers to understand better the proposal.
Building capacity: Advice to Research Institutions
Are you ready to make large grant application?
First step assign staff within the organization with explicit responsibilities to manage research grants and/or contracts with an external organization.
Moreover, provide evidence of good management. Funding bodies will always want to see evidence of good management and that your organisation is capable of delivering the project. It is extremely important that you have efficient procedures for the handling of finances within your organisation (ie a good bookkeeping system and properly prepared accounts) and that you can provide evidence that you will be able to account for the money that is given to you.
Individual Research Expertise and Experience
Select an experienced PI to lead
PI have experience leading projects and have a modest amount of publications. Choose individuals who intend to stay with the organization throughout the duration of the funded project.
To help less experienced staff work toward becoming a PI include: helping the junior scientists to publish manuscripts in peer-reviewed journals, supporting professional development around research, providing assistance in connecting them with mentors, offering small internal grant support to get a pilot research project off the ground, and by assisting in identifying grant opportunities that are specifically geared toward early investigators.
Complete as many of your current experiments as possible (build preliminary data) ; write up the papers and submit them for publication (one important element of any grant application is your peer-reviewed track record).
If you are a new investigator: make sure preliminary data collected, Time proposed to be spent on the research should be at least 60% and have a realistic budget. If you are a senior investigator, avoid fragmented proposal that was simply assembled from previous grant applications, avoid too much confidence in track record that compromise excellent writing efforts, take risk rather than same proposal theme again and again.
Facilities and equipment
Does the institution have enough physical space and the physical tools required to carry out research projects?
Organizations should consider:
- Repurposing or using existing space where a team of researchers can assemble
- Purchasing or loaning hardware/software necessary for collecting, storing, and analyzing data
- Developing research health and safety policies and procedures
- Providing access to online peer-reviewed journal databases
Tips to avoid grant application failures: The Checklists
- Lack of significance to the scientific issue being addressed.
- Lack of original, novel or new ideas.
- An overly ambitious research plan
- Scientific rationale not valid.
- Project lacks focus.
- No basic scientific question being addressed
- background reviews are uncritical
- Studies based on a shaky hypothesis or on shaky data, or alternative hypotheses not considered.
- Proposed experiments simply descriptive and do not test a specific hypothesis.
- The proposal is method driven rather than hypothesis driven
- Rationale for experiments not provided (why such experiments are important? Are they relevant to the tested hypothesis?
- Lack of plan B methods proposed in case the primary approach does not work out.
- Not recognizing potential problems and pitfalls.
- The proposed experiments do not include all relevant controls.
- Proposal lacks enough preliminary data.
- Investigator experience is not supported by track record of publications or relevant preliminary data.
- The proposal lacks critical literature references causing reviewers to think that the applicant either does not know the literature or has purposely neglected critical published material.
- Preliminary data is it obtained by the investigator or reported by others (avoid ambiguity).
- Applicants budget is inaccurate and do not display good financial management.
Careful interpretation of the feedback you receive about your application from the reviewers and knowing how far your proposal was below those that got funded, can help you improve the application next time. Always respond to suggestions from reviewers which may add value to the proposal and, once adapted, some proposals do go on to be funded.
The harsh reality is the rejection rate is very high for many granting agency and there are so many excellent proposals and limited funding so not all applications get funded first time. Improve and keep trying!
How can Global Medical Discovery help improve your chance of winning the research grant?
Follow the research featured at Global Medical Discovery. We only select the cream of research and the hottest medical discoveries. In these guidelines Global Medical Discovery presented tips to assist both junior and senior investigators to optimize their chances of successfully competing in a peer-reviewed grant application competition. Some grants are large competition with success rates sometimes falling to 20% or below, the difference between success and failure often results, not just from the quality of the science, but from the quality of the grant application.
Global Medical Discovery can assist by introducing you to international collaborators who will complement your expertise and increase your chance of applying for large international grants. Many of the research international grants support multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary team building, with the aim of training researchers in laboratories with cutting edge technologies not found in the original country of the researcher promoting technology and knowledge transfer between countries.
Because Global Medical Discovery main mission is to facilitate advancement in medical research worldwide, Global Medical Discovery will be happy to stimulate networking and partnership between researchers worldwide which allows you to develop the support that you need to work your way up the research funding ladder. We hope that this document will help you to write better grant proposals, and hence to be more successful in obtaining funds for your research.
Best of luck from Global Medical Discovery!
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