THE UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS SOUTHWESTERN MEDICAL CENTER AT DALLAS
OFFICE OF GRANTS MANAGEMENT
DEVELOPMENT of GRANT and CONTRACT PROPOSALS
Revised March 1999
The Office of Grants Management would like to gratefully acknowledge James B. Battles, Ph.D., Department of Biomedical Communications, for his contribution to this booklet. Dr. Battles received a PHS grant to produce a Model Faculty Development Program, for which he subsequently wrote a module on "Development of Grant and Contract Proposals". Dr. Battles kindly provided his text to OGM, and gave us permission to tailor it to be more specific to UT Southwestern's grants policies and procedures. We would also like to acknowledge the National Institutes of Health for permission to use portions of their booklet entitled "Helpful Hints on Preparing an NIH Research Grant Application".
Page I. INTRODUCTION Definitions STEPS IN THE GRANT-SEEKING PROCESS Developing Winning Ideas Feasibility Do-ability Fundability Match Needs to an Agency FUNDING SOURCES Federal Grants Foundations Voluntary Health Organizations Corporations INFORMATION SOURCES WRITING THE PROPOSAL Purpose Review Before you Begin Proposal Parts Internal Review Final Preparation Common Problems WHAT TO DO IF YOU DON'T GET FUNDED: TRY AGAIN Improving your Chances Next Time 1
The goal of this booklet is to provide faculty with a set of guidelines for developing and writing grant and contract proposals. Grant writing skills are vital for any faculty member in academic medicine. In fact your ability to obtain grants is often important in promotion and tenure considerations. Most if not all research, whether basic or clinical, is supported by external funds obtained through grants or contracts. Medical schools and their departments and divisions could not function without obtaining external support. Therefore most institutions require the faculty to have some form of external support for their research.
There are three major forms of external support that are most commonly used. They are the grant, the contract, and the cooperative agreement. Grant A grant is awarded to the institution in order to perform some specific activity. The grant is usually in the form of money, but it could be in the form of equipment. The recipient of a grant, often referred to as the grantee, incurs an obligation to use the funds and/or equipment for the purpose for which it was given. Grants usually entail ideas originated and defined by the applicant. The funding agency may issue guidelines or requirements to be used in making an application and in the review process, but the applicant is responsible for defining the scope of work of the project. This gives a great deal of freedom to the grantee in carrying out the project. Contract A contract is an agreement between an agency and the institution to carry out a specific project with a scope of work largely defined and specified by the funding agency. The funding agency desires a specific product or activity to be performed. The agency defines expected outcomes and specific items to be delivered by the contractor. Contracts are issued to organizations who present "bids" or "proposals" based on the specifications of the agency. In many ways a contract is research or work for hire. Under a contract the funding agency knows what it expects the contractor to deliver. At UT Southwestern "contract" is usually defined as being either a sponsored research contract, for preclinical studies, or a clinical trial contract, for studies performed under the sponsorship of a pharmaceutical company. Cooperative Agreement Cooperative agreements are similar to grants in that they are awarded by the agency to assist and support research and related activities. However, they give a substantial programmatic, i.e. scientific/technical, involvement role to the agency. The agency assists, supports, or stimulates the recipients, and is involved substantially with recipients in conducting projects, with the agency playing a "partner" role in the effort. Terms and conditions, above and beyond those required for the normal stewardship of grants, must be negotiated in order to establish the rights, responsibilities and duties of the prospective awardee and the awarding unit.
STEPS IN THE GRANT SEEKING PROCESS
There are six basic steps in the grant seeking process that can help give you some guidance in obtaining external funds. While these steps are no guarantee that you will be successful, they may well improve your chances of being funded. 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. Develop grant winning ideas. Determine your fundability. Research the field and pinpoint your most likely grant prospects. Make contact with the funding source. Write an individually tailored proposal. Follow up after submitting the proposal.
Developing Winning Ideas Despite the fairly large number of grants that are awarded each year by various funding agencies, there are far more applicants than there are funds. In fact only about one fourth of all grant applications actually are funded. The competition is extremely strong regardless of the funding source. It takes time and a good deal of effort to prepare a proposal. You want to have your time investment lead to pay off in the form of approval. The first place to begin is to examine what you want the funding for. You should try to generate ideas for what you want to study. It is a good idea to outline a rough plan of action which lists potential research or development activities that you would like to pursue. These activities should be based upon the strengths of your unit, both people and resources. Make a list of these ideas. Once the list is generated you need to analyze it and establish some priorities. There are three criteria that you can use to make preliminary judgments about the ideas on your list. They are: Feasibility Do-ability Fundability
Feasibility The first question to ask about any idea on your list is whether it is feasible. Is the idea one that is clear and can be accomplished? If the idea is not feasible then it is unlikely that anyone will want to fund it. You may need to clarify or refine the idea further before pursuing funding. Bounce the idea off colleagues or more experienced investigators within the institution. You may need to think through various ways in which you might conduct the proposed activity in order to determine if it is one that is feasible. Your ideas should be capable of being implemented with a limited, specified amount of funding. Do-ability The next question is, can you actually do the project or program you have in mind? Do you have the skills or are they present in the institution to carry out the intended task? Are there the resources available to undertake the project? Another way to look at it is to ask, "If we get money for this idea can it be done here?" These are the do-ability questions. If you feel that you can do the project and have the resources and personnel or can get them, then you have a do-able idea. Fundability If the project is feasible and you feel you can do it, the next question is, will anybody actually fund it? While this question can never be answered with certainty until you actually get the grant, you can explore the possibility prior to actually developing a proposal. Are there funding agencies that are 2
interested in the topic? Has anyone else had similar ideas funded? These are questions that you need to have answered before you invest time and energy drafting proposals. Match Needs to an Agency When seeking grants you should match your needs or ideas with those of a funding source. As one foundation executive points out: Keep in mind that the foundation or federal program has goals of its own. Thought should be given to how your program will further these goals. It is often wise to be specific. Too often, organizations appear to be concerned only with what the grant will do for them, and not with what it could accomplish for those individuals and organizations contributing the money. There is a symbiotic relationship between the funding source and the grantee. To be successful you need to have a match between the needs of a funding agency and your idea. If there is a mismatch then you are not likely to get funded from that agency. You need to discover, then act on, the needs and desires of a funding source - rather than the needs and desires of your own institution. In a sense, you must be able to market your ideas to the funding source so that they accept your proposal as a means of meeting their mission.
There are three basic types of funding sources for grants and contracts. They are federal grants, private nonprofit foundations, and corporations. Each of these sources operates differently and requires slightly different approaches. Federal Grants The federal government is the largest single source of research and development funding. When we speak of grants, we are usually referring to grants from federal sources. A variety of agencies of the government provide grants and contracts including the Department of Defense, the State Department, the Department of Education, the Department of Health and Human Services, and the National Science Foundation. There are several agencies which provide funding in the health area. Most of these programs fall under the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). There are five major agencies within HHS that have significant grant funding activities. They are: The National Institutes of Health (NIH) The Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) The Centers for Disease Control (CDC)
NIH The mandate of the NIH is to improve the health of the nation by increasing knowledge of health and disease through the conduct and support of research, research training, and biomedical communications. The majority of the NIH budget is for extramural (outside of NIH) research through grants and contracts. Approximately half of the grants go to medical schools, and NIH is by far the most important funding agency for academic medical research. NIH is divided into Bureaus, Institutes, and research service and support divisions. The National Library of Medicine is both a library and a research agency focusing on biomedical communications and information transfer technology. The following is a listing of the major components of NIH: National Cancer Institute National Heart, Lung, & Blood Institute National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism National Institute of Arthritis & Musculoskeletal & Skin Diseases National Institute on Aging National Institute of Allergy & Infectious Diseases National Eye Institute National Institute of General Medical Sciences National Institute of Child Health & Human Development National Institute of Neurological Disorders & Stroke National Institute on Deafness & Other Communication Disorders National Institute of Diabetes & Digestive & Kidney Diseases National Institute on Drug Abuse National Institute of Mental Health National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences National Human Genome Research Institute National Institute of Dental & Craniofacial Research National Institute of Nursing Research National Center for Complementary & Alternative Medicine National Library of Medicine 4
National Center for Research Resources Fogarty International Center NIH uses both grants and contracts as a mechanism for funding research efforts. NIH accepts unsolicited proposals three times a year for its regular review cycle. Major programs of NIH do not change significantly from year to year. Special emphasis research is announced periodically. Such programs can be either for grants or contracts. Announcements for grants are called Requests for Applications (RFA) and announcements for contracts are called Requests for Proposals (RFP), and may be found in the NIH Guide to Grants & Contracts. SAMHSA The Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration administers substance abuse and mental health treatment and prevention programs. It does this in part by assisting State and local agencies to expand capacity and access to treatment and prevention programs, enhance their effectiveness, and develop community-wide approaches to prevention and treatment. SAMHSA consists of the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment, the Center for Substance Abuse Prevention, and the Center for Mental Health Services. HRSA The Heath Resources & Services Administration funds a number of service related programs such as those from the Maternal & Child Health Bureau and some limited health planning activities. Programs included in the health professions program include Area Health Education Centers Programs, Residency Training Grants in Family Medicine, General Internal Medicine, and General Pediatrics. The agency also funds faculty development programs in the three primary care specialties. FDA The Food and Drug Administration's research program is divided into four main areas: microbiology and immunology; analytical chemistry; pharmacology and pharmacokinetics; and toxicology. The FDA conducts research in its own laboratories and also supports a significant number of extramural research projects at colleges and universities, including medical schools. CDC The Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, Georgia, administer national programs for the prevention and control of communicable and vector borne diseases and other preventable conditions. The CDC does a great deal of intramural research but does from time to time issues RFPs and RFAs for extramural research. NSF The National Science Foundation supports research in the sciences, both basic and applied; awards scholarships and graduate fellowships in science; and supports development and uses of computer and other scientific methods and technologies applicable to research and science education. NSF funds a variety of scientific areas including biological sciences, mathematics, chemistry, and engineering, and the social sciences. However, it does not have a large biomedical component. In fact, NSF tries to avoid conflicting with the NIH which is a much larger agency, providing almost six times the funding in biomedical areas. NSF grants are highly competitive and are highly prized by their recipients. While these agencies are the major sources of funding for health care related research, they are not the only sources. Agencies such as the Health Care Financing Agency (HCFA) fund some research in health services and financing. The Department of Agriculture funds programs in the area of nutrition and foods. The Department of Defense funds a variety of medical research through all of the various services, the Army, Air Force, and Navy. NASA also funds some medical research. The government does not lack for agencies which fund different projects. The problem is being able to find an agency which is interested in what you are doing, and finding a match. 5
Foundations After the federal government, foundations are the next largest source of research and development funds. There are several categories of foundations. Large National The large national foundations usually are fairly broad in scope and make fairly sizable awards. These foundations comprise big names such as the Carnegie, the Ford, the Rockefeller, and the Sloane foundations. They are well publicized, and it is fairly easy to get information about their programs and guidelines. Special Purpose Special purpose foundations are those which limit their funding activities to a special category of programs. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute are examples of large special purpose foundations limiting their programs to the health care area. Regional Regional foundations restrict their giving to a specific geographic area of the country. They may be multi-state or just one state. They may or may not have a restricted program. Local Local foundations serve the needs of a specific community or limited local area, and often bear the name of the locality such as the Chicago Community Trust or the Cleveland Foundation. Many of these foundations have fairly broad guidelines for what they will fund as long as it is within their community. These agencies do not usually make large grants. Family Funds There are a great many family foundations. The family foundation is usually fairly small and funds programs in a limited area according to the desires of the particular family. Voluntary Health Organizations Another source of funding is from the various health organizations such as the American Cancer Society, the American Heart Association, etc., some of which may be set up as foundations. While the amount of funding is not large, these organizations do have varied programs to support both research and training. Funding is usually made in the form of a grant. Corporations The last major source of grants and contracts are corporations. Many corporations give grants to organizations for specific activities. They also enter into contractual arrangements for research and development activities with universities and other academic agencies. Typical sponsorship here at UT Southwestern is in the form of the many clinical trials which we perform for various pharmaceutical companies. Corporations are much more comfortable with contracts than they are with grants, and they are more willing to fund if there is some connection with the core business of the company. Not all corporate support is in the form of money. Equipment donations are becoming more common. In fact, there have been some modifications of the tax laws to encourage corporations to give equipment to support research at institutions of higher education. An example of corporate quid pro quo would be a computer company donating equipment to an educational institution with the hope that students will be potential buyers or that faculty will develop new software. Another example is a pharmaceutical company giving a medical school a grant to develop educational materials about diseases for which the company markets a given drug.
Where do you get information about potential grants and contracts? Unfortunately there is no single source of information about potential funding sources. However, there are many useful items and guides that can help you locate potential funding sources. Office of Grants Management OGM has a modest resource library, and can help you identify potential funding sources and provide you with basic information on their programs, criteria, and types of funding. As well as individual files on various sponsors, both federal and non-federal, we have several directories of funding sources, and subscribe to various newsletters. When we receive announcements from sponsors, we send these out to department chairpersons and to those individual faculty whom might be interested in that particular item. Federal Grants There are several sources of information about federal grants. The NIH publishes the NIH Guide to Grants & Contracts which lists all RFAs and RFPs for a given time period. This can be accessed electronically (http://www.nih.gov), and is a very useful document. The Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance is an extensive document that lists all the funding programs of all government agencies. The Catalog lists programs by subject and describes the program, eligibility requirements, the application process and other information. The Federal Register is another government publication that lists all RFPs and RFAs of all agencies. The Commerce Business Daily also lists all grant announcements as they are released. The only problem with these two documents is that it is often information overload. Because they contain everything it is difficult to find items that are of interest to you. Reading the Commerce Daily and the Federal Register is a little like reading the telephone book. A number of companies publish newsletters which deal with grants in a special area such as Health Grants and Contracts Weekly. These newsletters specialize in certain areas and screen the Commerce Business Daily and the Federal Register to obtain information on RFPs and grant announcements. Such newsletters can be extremely helpful in keeping abreast of potential funding opportunities. It doesn't take more than one grant to be funded to have a newsletter pay for itself many times over. You may wish to consider having a department and/or a division subscription. Most newsletters also cover foundation funding information as well as federal sources. Foundation Information There are several excellent publications put out by the Foundation Center (some of these are available in the Office of Grants Management, the Development Office, and in the library). You can contact the Foundation Center at http://www.fdncenter.org. - The Foundation Directory This document includes general information on the assets, priorities, officers, and addresses of the more than 5,000 largest private foundations in the United States. To be included in the Directory, a foundation must have at least $1 million in assets, or make over $100,000 in grants per year. - The Foundation Grants Index This document is a cross-indexed listing of over 40,000 grants over $5,000, made by nearly 500 foundations. Data in this source will help to determine the funding pattern of a foundation - typical location, size, and purpose of the grant awards.
Corporations Most corporate gifts come from large corporations with 100 employees or more. Furthermore, corporations tend to give money to near-by institutions where they do business. They also give money or equipment to institutions which are involved in similar activities to their business, i.e., pharmaceutical companies tend to give money to medical schools. You should consult the Office of Development to obtain details on 7
corporations in our local area. Two of the best publications on this information are: Standard and Poor's Registry of Corporations and the Taft Corporate Giving Directory. Contacting The next step in the process is making contact with the potential funding sources on your list. Initial contact is extremely important in the grant seeking process. A National Science Foundation study of federal grant awards showed that the only statistically significant improvement in the chances of funding was making contact with the funding agency prior to submitting a proposal. Those who had made prior contact got their grants funded to a greater degree than those who did not. This fact should not come as any surprise. Those who had previous contact had a chance to review their idea with someone on the inside. They could use the information to modify how they prepared their proposals or in some cases not bother in submitting one. It would seem futile to put a lot of effort into writing a proposal if the idea is not one that the agency is likely to fund. The pre-proposal contact can help you make this determination. A telephone call is the easiest and often the best way to make initial contact. Most federal agencies encourage telephone conversations rather than formal written communication, and most agency personnel are very eager to discuss potential ideas or to answer questions. Remember you have nothing to lose in contacting the funding agency. Before making contact with any foundation or corporation, always check first with the Development Office, to get information and guidelines on the best approach to use. The outcome of your contact with the agency should be a better idea of whether it is worth your while to proceed to the proposal writing stage. Don't be discouraged if the initial contact turns out to be negative; remember that you don't have to waste time preparing a proposal to that agency. Move on to the next one on your list. If you get a favorable feedback on your ideas be sure to ask about specific guidelines or priorities of the agency. Use this information in preparing your proposal. You may find that more than one agency is interested in your idea. However, remember that each agency is unique and should receive a unique proposal.
WRITING THE PROPOSAL
Nothing beats a well written proposal. Your proposal has to be tailored to the particular funding source. Never send the same proposal to more than one funding agency. Instead rewrite your idea with a different emphasis, appealing to the unique traits and needs of each funding source. Purpose The purpose of your proposal is to market your idea to a given funding source. The proposal should be: a persuasive argument that should excite and motivate a grant reviewer. It should make the funding source see the benefits of buying your idea. a statement of a solution to a problem. It should describe benefits, advantages and end results - not just means and methods. a planning tool that can help you organize your project.
Review Before You Begin Keeping these ideas in mind as to the purpose of the proposal, imagine that you are a member of the grant review panel that will approve or disapprove your proposal. Here are some questions that reviewers always ask: Does the project fit into our program and does it meet grant requirements? Will it fit into the type of support we give? Will it have the kind of impact we want? Are the time, money, and personnel estimates realistic? Are the evaluation criteria sound? Are the problems real and in need of solutions (and is this well documented in the proposal)? Are there resources to carry out the project? Do the project personnel have the expertise to carry out the scope of work? Does the institution have credibility?
The way you answer these review questions will determine to a large degree whether or not you are successful in obtaining funding. If you want to come out ahead of the competition, you must be able to inform and motivate the reviewers. Reviewers are always looking for really good proposals that they can feel good about approving, not turning them down. Therefore, help your reviewers by convincing them that your proposal is the one that should be funded. You should present your research logically and clearly, and show that it is meaningful. Describe explicitly your hypothesis and how it will be tested. Be sure your proposed project has coherent direction, sections are wellcoordinated and clearly related to a central focus. Refer to the literature thoroughly and thoughtfully. Explain what gaps in the literature would be filled by your project. In the past, research proposals have not been funded when applicants seemed to be unaware of relevant published work, or when the proposed research or study design had already been tried and judged inadequate. Do not assume that reviewers will "know what you mean". Describe in detail the experimental design and procedures to be used. While you may safely assume the reviewers are experts in the field and familiar with current methodology, they will not make the same assumption about you. Thus, it is not sufficient merely to state, for example, "a variety of viruses will be grown in cells using standard in vitro tissue culture techniques." The reviewers will want to know which viruses, which cells, and which techniques, as well as the rationale for using the particular virus-cell system and exactly how the techniques will be used. The burden of proof is on you to show, through a clear, succinct, yet detailed explication, that you understand and are capable of handling the research methodology. 9
Since the reviewers are experienced research scientists, they will undoubtedly be aware of possible problem areas, even if you don't include them in your research plan. But they have no way of knowing that you too have considered these problem areas unless you fully discuss any potential pitfalls and alternative approaches. Proposal Parts You need to carefully examine the agency guidelines to determine the exact format for your proposal. While guidelines differ from program to program, there are many similarities. Here are some of the major parts that should be in a proposal. They may go by other names depending upon the agency. Abstract An abstract is a short summary of your proposal. It should be no more than one page. Follow the sponsor's instructions carefully, since some require a lay summary as opposed to a technical abstract. For federal grants to the Public Health Service agencies such as NIH, the abstract is to be written in a defined space of a half page or less. The abstract is essential because reviewers sometimes weed out inferior proposals solely on the basis of a cursory reading of the proposal abstract. The abstract is also critical in NIH grants because it is by reading the abstract that the NIH staff determines to which study section to send the proposal for review. Since the abstract is the first thing that is read, it needs to be carefully drafted. The abstract should state what you plan to do, how you plan to do it, and your objectives. This is not easy in just half a page. Therefore, you should write the abstract last. But remember it is not an afterthought, it is the first thing people will see. You want to make perfectly clear what you intend to do. Objectives/Specific Aims The Objectives or Specific Aims of the project should come next. An objective or specific aim is a clearly expressed, specific description of the improved future after your project. An effective objective states a desired outcome in measurable terms. After reading your objectives or specific aims the reviewer should have a very good idea of what you intend to do. The PHS guidelines describe specific aims as: "...the broad, long-term objectives and what the specific research proposed in this application is intended to accomplish." Problem/Need Significance This portion of the proposal outlines the problem that you hope to solve and why it is significant. Why is there a need to solve this particular project? In some cases the funding agency is well aware of the problem but wants to make sure that you are aware of it. This is the section to indicate the key literature in the field and demonstrate your understanding of the literature. The PHS application guide defines items to be included under significance: "Briefly sketch the background leading to the present application, critically evaluate existing knowledge, and specifically identify the gaps which the project is intended to fill. State concisely the importance and health relevance of the research described in this application by relating the specific aims to the broad, long-term objectives." Methods Now that you have stated exactly what you plan to do and why it is important to do it, it is time to describe how you plan to do it. There should be a direct correlation between what you intend to do and how you intend to do it. In describing your methods you might consider the questions that reviewers might ask about your approach to the problem. Why did you choose these methods? The methods section of your proposal is not just a description of your plan. It is also a forum where you show why your chosen methods will solve the problem. Have you had experience 10
with this method or know of others who have? Why do you think these methods are better than others? This section is also where you show the funding agency why your proposed methods will work best. Are these the most cost effective methods? Is the timing of these methods reasonable? How much time is require to carry out the methods? Is that time reasonable? Will it take longer than anticipated or is too much time allocated to the methods? Does the investigator have any experience with these methods? Do you or anyone in the institution have any experience or track record in using the methods that you have proposed? If there is no experience with the method, how do you plan to acquire expertise?
When you outline your methods, it is important to tell the funding agency who will be responsible for implementing each phase of your project. Whoever is responsible for carrying out a given phase should have the necessary qualifications to do the job. It is a good idea to repeat the relevant objective for each portion of the methods section. In this way the reviewers can tell exactly how each objective will be accomplished using what methods. Time-Line It is sometimes helpful to include a project time-line. The time-line tells when the planned activities in the methods and evaluation section are to occur, and provides a visual summary of the project activities and sequence. Organization The project organization section should describe the administrative structure of the project. On large grants, it is a good idea to include an organization chart listing key project personnel and their relationship to each other. In this section you can describe in greater detail the nature of your organization and how this project will relate to the existing organization. The project staff and personnel should be outlined including their responsibilities in the project. A brief description of their qualification for their role should also be provided. The resources and facilities can be included in the organization section, or they can be a separate section. Future Funding This section is where you describe what will happen when the funding runs out. How will you plan to continue the project in future years? Most funding agencies don't want to feel that they will be asked to fund a project for ever. It is in this section that you should describe how you plan to operate without grant funds after the initial funding period. Budget The budget for the project should be directly related to the scope of work that is to be carried out. Every item should be completely justified as to why it is needed and how it is related to the activities proposed. Describe the role of all personnel, both professional and nonprofessional, even if no salary is requested. Provide a reasonable indication of the percentage of time and effort on the project for each professional, and make certain the sum of each individual's time and effort for all professional activities does not exceed 100%. Justify thoroughly all proposed purchases of major equipment. If the requested equipment appears to duplicate what is already available at the institution, or if the reviewers feel you are adding supplies indiscriminately, these items will probably be disallowed. Travel, especially foreign travel, must be justified in detail. Do not ask for funds to attend meetings not related to the research area of your application. Avoid temptations to deliberately inflate the budget because you feel reviewers will automatically reduce it. 11
Also avoid underestimating what is needed to do the research adequately, so reviewers will think the agency is getting a bargain. Avoid these temptations and prepare a realistic budget. Reviewers are instructed to evaluate the budget only in terms of whether it is realistic and justified in relation to the aims and methods of the proposed project. Deliberate over- or underbudgeting will often backfire, your ability to manage the grant may be questioned, and reviewers may be less than enthusiastic about your research. Reasonableness and justification should be the attributes that are readily apparent in your budget presentation. Items listed in the budget form should have a reference to specific justification items. When giving a specific amount, include the rates or how that figure was arrived at. Block amounts are sometimes subject to arbitrary cuts or elimination. Do not forget to include such items as fringe benefits and indirect costs, if the latter is allowed by the sponsor. It is always best to discuss your draft budget with the Office of Grants Management before putting it into final form. It is possible to find out how much was awarded in the past for similar projects from the funding agency. This information can be helpful in preparing your budget. If the average award for your type of project has been $150,000 a year, use this amount as a guide in preparing your budget. Biographical Sketch A biographical sketch should be included for all essential project personnel. The biographical sketch should clearly indicate the qualifications of the individual to carry out the designated role in the project. A complete list of publications of the individual is not needed if the list is lengthy. List only those citations that relate to the works described in the proposal. The professional experiences section should include relevant activities related to the project. Biographical sketches should usually be limited to no more than two pages, but always refer to the sponsor's instructions. Letters of Support For some proposals it is desirable or necessary to include letters of support. These should be included only if they are related to the nature of the project that is being presented. If the project is a cooperative effort between two or more units within the same institution or more than one institution, then letters of support should be included which indicate a willingness to participate. Be sure that the letters of support clearly state the type of support that will be provided and that the individual is enthusiastic about that support. Letters from Congressmen, Senators, or other political figures should not be used unless they will have some direct involvement in the project. Each letter should be individually written and appear unique even if the same type of support is being provided. Again, limit letters of support to only those key individuals whose support is required to have the project succeed. Literature Citations Do not list references in the body of the text. The list of citations should be relevant and current, and need not be exhaustive. Padding this list with repetitious or out-of-date entries is not likely to impress reviewers and may even be counterproductive. Appendix The appendix is useful for photographs, oversized documents, and other materials that do not reproduce well. The text of the application should include any graphs, diagrams, tables, or charts essential to the evaluation of your research plan. A word of caution about appendices. Reviewers often don't read them and sometimes don't even receive them from the funding agency. Again, if an item is essential to your proposal, it should be contained in the body of the grant and not placed in the appendix. Internal Review Be sure to allow time for a thorough editing and proofreading your application. Many scientists who are extremely precise in their research procedures do not take the same care in writing their applications. A sloppy application with typographical and grammatical mistakes, information omitted, and unclear statements makes a poor first impression on reviewers. They may wonder about the care you will devote to the actual research. Have the proposal read by someone in the institution who has not been actively involved in its preparation. You need constructive comments about whether the proposal makes sense and is understandable. Having an 12
impartial colleague review the proposal will be most helpful to you and improve the possibility of funding. Final Preparation There are a few tips that can be helpful in preparing the final proposal. First of all, be sure that the proposal is formatted according to the sponsor's guidelines, that it is neatly typed and readable. Use plenty of white space in your layout. Use headings and topic listings to assist the reader, again paying attention to the sponsor's format guidelines. It is a good idea to number the sections of the grant and major points in each section. By having sections numbered, you can refer to sections of the proposal such as referring to the methods section in the evaluation section etc. A good table of contents also helps the reviewer. Charts and diagrams can also help to present your ideas clearly. Common Problems Various funding agencies have identified a number of common problems that have plagued grantees, approved and disapproved alike. They include: not following the application instructions poorly written presentations unrealistic budgeting
In addition to these major problems, the NIH has offered the following list of common reasons for disapproval of applications: poor organization apparent lack of new ideas an unfocused research plan poor treatment of the literature inadequate grasp and explanation of methodology poorly detailed research goals an experimental approach that involves questionable reasoning and absence of an acceptable scientific rationale taking on too much a lack of sufficient experimental detail an uncritical approach
WHAT TO DO IF YOU DON'T GET FUNDED: TRY AGAIN
Most funding officials say that the best approach to take is to try again and keep on trying. If you keep on trying the chances are good that your application will eventually be funded. An in-house study at the NIH looked at thousands of first-time research grant applications since the 1960s and found that persistence does pay off. About half of these applications finally succeeded even if it took a while. Officials at both the NIH and the NSF say that beginning investigators should be encouraged by the overall approval rates, rather than being discouraged. At the very least, it indicates that prior lack of success is not a reason for not trying again. Improving Your Chances Next Time Most funding agencies are willing to provide you with information about why your proposal was not funded. If they do not automatically provide you with the information about your proposal, ask for it. When you receive the information back, review it carefully. Don't let your ego get in the way of accepting the review comments for what they are. Granted you spent a lot of time preparing the application, but remember you're trying to get the proposal funded. Review the comments carefully and determine why the reviewers found the faults they indicated. Make a list of these points and then a list of things to do to correct them. Transforming a rejected application into a funded proposal may require relatively minor revisions or wholesale revamping. According to NIH and NSF officials, many proposals have considerable merit but are unfundable for reasons ranging from lack of funds to lack of program fit. Some proposals are rejected because they don't address funding priorities. At NIH, many applications recommended for funding during initial evaluation by peer reviewers don't get funded the first time round. If an NIH review group finds an application scientifically meritorious but flawed, they often will recommend that the applicant make specific revisions and submit an amended application, which will be reviewed again, usually two cycles later. The cardinal rule to remember in grant writing is that you won't get funded if you don't try. Don't be discouraged if your first efforts are not successful. Keep trying. Hopefully if you follow the advice in this booklet you will improve your chances of being funded. Good luck!