Grant writing: 10 tips from the NIH

Neuroscience conference

Although I am now working as a Grant Consultant, I still had a scientific conference lined up from my previous postdoctoral job. So after only two weeks at Evers + Manders, I found myself on the plane to Chicago to talk about my research at the largest Neuroscience conference in the world.

Next to research, this conference featured many workshops, for example on grant writing and career development. I attended a workshop from the largest medical funding agency in the US, the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Here are the best tips that also apply within the Netherlands and Europe

  1. 1. Start and submit early

  2. You can do this by keeping track of ongoing and upcoming calls and clearly structure and plan the process.
  3. 2. Carefully read the funding announcement

  4. Make sure you, your team, and your research are eligible. Consider what type of grant (e.g. training, research, collaboration with industry) you are applying for and write accordingly.

  5. 3. Make use of the tools on the website

  6. For example for budget and eligibility, that are provided on the website.
  7. 4. You can always contact the program officer

  8. When you have questions about the call.

  9. 5. Make sure you address everything that is asked for

  10. This sounds obvious but grant proposals are often rejected for not addressing all the criteria.

  11. 6. Ask around for people that have experience with the specific grant or use the services of a grant advisor

  12. Review previously funded proposals and extract what the funding agency likes to see.

  13. 7. Think about the review criteria 
  14. How will the proposal be scored? Write with the reviewer in mind.
  15. 8. Convince but don’t annoy the reviewer
  16. Make it easy for them to read. Use white lines, subtitles, typography, tables and figures, but don’t overdo it. Keep a balance between readability and content.
  17. 9. Clearly address your weaknesses
  18. Think ahead about where your project may experience difficulties and report how you plan to resolve them. It shows you have thought it through carefully and are prepared.
  19. 10. Talk to colleagues and mentors
  20. Let them read drafts of your proposal and comment. Ironically, often people that are not very familiar with your topic will provide the best tips!

And our final tip: consult a professional advisor. We at Evers + Manders know many funding programs and understand what is needed and what the funding agency wants to see. Moreover, we can help your structure and guide the process, making sure everything is ready before the deadline. We have different advising options, ranging from only editing your final proposal to full guidance throughout the application process.


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