Hunting for a grant? Here are five tips from professionals

Academic researchers can’t do their jobs without grants. However, getting those grants isn’t that easy. The University of Groningen’s Grants Week, taking place now, should help researchers in their search for funding. These tips from experienced grant-hunters will do the trick as well.

1. It’s a state of mind

Take a course on how to write a research proposal, says Professor Erik Dietzenbacher. He should know, as he once received an EU grant of € 4 million for the construction and application of a large database of production statistics and trade flows. Writing a proposal is a state of mind, says Dietzenbacher. ‘If you start thinking about a proposal when you see a call for research papers, you are already too late. The course will not only teach you how to write a proposal, but also how to adapt that proposal into what the donors want.’

2. Make sure your story comes across

The social or scientific impact and the management of your research is as important as the scientific content of your proposal, says Dietzenbacher. ‘All parts will be taken into account and criticized.’ It’s also important to pay attention to how your proposal is presented, says René Fransen, science writer at Science LinX and freelancer on the RUG Talent Development Programme. ‘Divide your text into sections to make sure the most important parts of your text stand out. Your research proposal is a story, with a beginning and an end. Make sure your story really comes across.’

3. Write with generous deadlines

If you include numerous deliverables and milestones in your proposal, you will make your life stressful, Dietzenbacher says. ‘You have to make sure that what you have promised is feasible, as your sponsors will keep you to those promises. Write a proposal with generous deadlines.’

4. Think big!

Ellen Nollen – awarded an ERC grant for further research into the role of the moag-4 gene in the development of neurodegenerative diseases – has her own grants strategy. ‘Go for the big, personal grants first. You need to ask yourself the following questions: which scientific questions do I want to solve, how many people do I need and how much money will it cost? If you need €500,000 to do your research, write a proposal for a € 500,000 grant. Think big.’

5. Dont forget to enjoy

Some tips are obvious, but are still forgotten regularly, Nollen says. Fransen and Dietzenbacher have encountered that problem as well. As a reminder, the five most obvious but regularly forgotten dos and don’ts are: make sure you are convinced by your own proposal; get help from people outside your own research team; guidelines are a jungle, so ask experienced people to point out the important parts; have your proposal checked by a native speaker; start on time, stay calm and don’t forget to enjoy it.

Grants Week 2013 – 14 – 18 october 

The Grants Week – co-organized by the RUG and the UMCG – aims to inform researchers at every stage of their career about national and international funding opportunities, by bringing together well-informed officials, experienced assessment committee members and successful grantees.

The programme offers meetings and workshops with officials from Agentschap NL and NWO, who are invited to outline the new initiatives for research funding and procedural changes, and to answer questions.

More information about the Grants Week.