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Advances on the Grant Front.

7 September 2012

I am now getting in to full swing on my R01eq application. I have written the specific aims, the background, and most of the significance section. So far, that’s about 3500 words. Recently, Doc Becca said, “when in doubt, write the methods”. I don’t think that’s true for me. I like to write the background and significance first, for a couple of reasons. I like to work from the beginning and go through in order. I like to have the context of my whole grant in my mind while I write the methods, so that I can keep the relevance of the work foremost as I proceed. The agency I’m submitting to is very tightly focused on specific ideas about what should be funded and why. I want my methods to be directly responsive to that throughout. So I write my background and significance first.

Getting the background section of the floor is key. If the background section isn’t good, the whole grant will be sunk off the bat, because I’m an engineer doing medical research. If the background section doesn’t establish that I’m comfortable with the medical aspects of the project, then they won’t care about my awesome methods. This means lots of recent references directly relevant to my population, and my context. The significance section doesn’t need to be as tightly referenced, or at least as voluminously referenced, but it still needs to be clearly responsive to open questions in the field. I found a recent survey of simulation in health care settings and explained exactly how this project will advance each one of the deficiencies in the literature identified in that paper.

And as I’ve written a couple of times, the team is crucial as well. I was able to get buy-in from a major PI who has decades of funding in this area, and from this agency. This should provide me with strong credibility. He was on my previous funded grant too, at 2.5%, and did essentially nothing. I’m not expecting a lot of action from him on this one either. Monthly calls, etc. But his name will be a strong addition. I have buy-in from a major implementation agency, and another senior investigator with decades of NIH funding.

And I’m making a choice I made before, which some people will probably criticize, but which worked for me: I’m leaving plenty of white space. I will probably end up with a grant almost two pages shorter than it could be. Maybe two and a half. But I’m setting the spacing at 1.1 lines, rather than 1. I’m putting carriage returns between subject headings and the text, as well as after each subject’s text and the next heading. This grant will be easy to read, soft on the eyes. Nearly every grant I’ve ever seen is jam-packed so tightly as to present massive rectangular walls of text on every page. They don’t need to be. My last funded grant wasn’t. A friend got his NSF proposal funded despite submitting a grant that was two pages shorter than the required limit.

This is coming together. Methods next.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. 7 September 2012 12:27

    I fully support your use of whitespace! My R21 that got picked up also had spaces between section headings and the text, and used Palatino Linotype, the spaciest of the NIH-allowed fonts. And re: my comment about the methods, I always do try to write Background & Sig first. But when you get stuck staring at the ceiling and just want to get SOMETHING on paper, the methods are usually easy to bang out, letting you feel like you’ve moved forward.

  2. Penelope permalink
    7 September 2012 12:40

    I know nothing of grant writing, but as for persuasive writing in general, I always feel that it just needs to be long enough for it’s feet to touch the ground. It sounds like there are probably lots of feet to get to touch the ground in your sort of grant proposal, but the principle probably still stands, I would think.

  3. sydlaughs permalink
    8 September 2012 09:17

    Good luck with it. I have usually had the problem of trying to cram so much into a limited number of pages. Having too much crammed in isn’t necessarily good.

  4. 8 September 2012 22:47

    I should marry you so that you all the rights to live and work in Canada and let the Canadians soak in your genius! You blow me away with your critical thinking and anti-oppressive lens developed through your life experiences, and supported by the fellowship of AA….you are a good man.

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