Monday, October 27, 2008

Grant writing

So, it is official. I suck at proposal writing. I got back my first set of "summary statements" from an NIH grant that I submitted. They basically said "go find a mentor - the science is solid, but your proposal is unintelligible, so we can't fund this piece of crap". Perhaps it was phrased a little better (in fact, the reviewers spent 5 pages reinforcing the concept of all the ways in which my proposal was unintelligible), but that was the gist.

They did give some helpful comments, which I will use in re-writing my proposal. And I knew that this one(s) was a piece of crap. I submitted three proposals in June to three different NIH sections on three different topics. I had never written an NIH proposal before, so I basically had no clue what I was doing. I wrote another one a month or so ago with another (much more senior) professor, and I learned a lot. However, based on the significant differences between that proposal and the ones I submitted in June, I could pretty much assume that none of those were going anywhere.

All of that being said... Waiting for these rejections was almost like waiting to go to the dentist and have your wisdom teeth pulled. You know what's coming, but it still sucks when it actually happens. Especially reading the 5 pages of comments saying things like "if you had only written more background information, then I would have recommended this for funding" and "the PI clearly has a strong track record in this field, therefore, while I believe she can successfully perform the research, she can not write proposals and therefore I can not recommend this for funding" and so forth...

In any case, the main thing I learned: put in as much background as humanly possible. This really showed in the reviews. Both with the specific comments about the lack of background information and the resulting confusion. Also make sure to use the phrase "As the PI has previously shown..." (or similar words) as many times as possible. And make sure the short paragraph in the grant itself about me (a semi-bio) is extremely flattering. These last two things I have problems with. I tend to have problems writing these types of things (especially the latter). I'm going to get my husband to do it. He has no problems. Also, it is easier to write complimentary statements about other people than it is about yourself.

And I wrote his resume last night.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I googled "i suck at writing grants" and came to this blog. Re-assuring to know that you learned something from the whole experience. I'm writing one now and don't know whether I should even bother continuing as I know it sucks right now... and it's due in 48 hours.