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Applying for a Grant Grant Writing Made Simple? Heather Stuart, PhD, Community Health & Epidemiology, Queen ’ s University.

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Presentation on theme: "Applying for a Grant Grant Writing Made Simple? Heather Stuart, PhD, Community Health & Epidemiology, Queen ’ s University."— Presentation transcript:

1 Applying for a Grant Grant Writing Made Simple? Heather Stuart, PhD, Community Health & Epidemiology, Queen ’ s University

2 Main Focus of This Session  Grants that are: –Externally funded clinical, epidemiological, and health services research –Not randomized controlled clinical trials that are primarily industry funded  Competitions that require the investigator to write a grant proposal that will be reviewed by a: –Peer review committee composed of scientists –Merit review committee composed of scientists and decision-makers  Main feature is a highly competitive process

3 Granting Opportunities  First Tier – Tri-Councils & National Foundations: Canadian Institutes of Health Research (Open Grants/Strategic Initiatives) –Theme-Based Institutes –Four Cross-cutting “ Pillars ” (Basic, Clinical, Population, Policy) Social Sciences & Humanities Research Council National Sciences & Engineering Council Canadian Health Services Research Foundation (Knowledge Transfer)  Second Tier: –Provincial Granting Bodies (Research Foundations) –Government Departments  Third Tier: –Special Foundations and Trusts –Advocacy Organizations (Cancer Society; Schizophrenia Society)

4 The Ideology of Health Research  Evidence Based Medicine –Evidence Based Services –Evidence Based Policy  Accountability and Cost  Usability of Research Findings  Knowledge Transfer  Research Teams –Multidisciplinary –Industry Partnerships Curiosity Usefulness

5 The Ideal Review Process LOI Peer/Merit Panel

6 The Real World Review Process LOI 80% 20%

7 Grantsmanship …the art of getting $$$

8 Purpose of a Letter of Intent  In five pages or less, convince a committee of generic experts to request a full proposal  Rigorous conceptualization of what you want to do… –Interesting idea (& fits with the Call for Proposals) –Methods are appropriate to the question and will give valid results –Study is feasible –Appropriate team  Consider the match between the question and the funder –National granting agencies are interested in nationally relevant findings –Provincial agencies are interested in findings that can be applied in the Province –Local agencies may have specific strategic objectives

9 Purpose of a Proposal  Convince a committee of generic experts that your team deserves to be funded instead of someone else  Develop a highly persuasive and polished argument that your proposal will make an important contribution Critical appraisal of the literature Literature syntheses  Address three issues: What do we know? What don ’ t we know? How will this study make a difference?

10 Purpose of a Proposal continued…  Use the best methods available, not the method that is most feasible for you Study design (name it!) Data collection & measures (precision and quality) Analysis plan (matched to objectives) Ethics Budget Knowledge transfer plan  Create a strong team (cover all areas of expertise required to complete project)  Insure institutional environment & administrative capacity (research clearances)

11 The Proposal Must Answer Several Questions  What is your purpose (aims and objectives/hypotheses)  What are we going to learn (that somebody else doesn ’ t already know)?  Why is it worth knowing? –How does the study contribute to scientific theory? –How can the findings be used?  How will we know that the conclusions are valid? –Strengths –Biases –Steps taken to identify and reduce biases

12 So What? The contribution argument  The research has never been done before –Be absolutely sure this is a correct statement –Insure that you address the counter argument that there may be a good reason for that!  Some or much research has been done but you will reassess it in a way that will give new insight –Systematic errors in current research –Lower power study designs –Replications studies don ’ t automatically justify themselves  A combination of the two (most research) –Some new material that will help in reassessing the existing field

13 Scientific Merit  Methodological difficulties will not necessarily kill a good idea at the LOI stage, but… Vague, ill-defined, and overly ambitious study designs, or black- box statistical analyses suggest a lack of focus and may raise doubts about the ultimate usability of findings  Reviewers won ’ t second guess your methods  Statistics don ’ t make the LOI!  Projects that are heavily dependent for their success on yet-to-be developed study instruments usually cause concern.  Sequential projects are tricky to fund particularly if the first step is vague or difficult to achieve

14 Projects or Programs!  One question only…  Research programs study a series of questions that build on each other or are interrelated in some way –For seasoned teams only –May end up looking like a tangled mess  One question usually translates into one study design and one method of data collection

15 Know Your Committee  Peer Review or Merit Review?  2-3 Members will be assigned to review your proposal in detail  External reviewers may also be solicited to provide written reviews  Committee reviewers (and one additional reader) will present your proposal, their numeric rating, and justify this rating with reference to strengths and weaknesses  Yours will be one of many that the reviewers/readers will have been assigned  Committee members (who have not read your proposal) will ask questions  Committee reviewers must defend their position and/or your proposal –They need to be able to find details quickly to respond to questions –They need to be able to direct other committee members to relevant sections to support their explanations  Everyone votes!

16 Help Your Reviewers  Suitable for a multi-disciplinary team of scholarly individuals who are not knowledgeable about your area considering… –Incomprehension between disciplines –Same words, different meanings –Workload of reviewers and committees –Fairness in judging proposals difficult if they can ’ t be understood or if format deviates from the norm  No short forms, acronyms or jargon (NEVER, EVER)  Write clearly & purge spelling or grammatical mistakes  Numbers must add up!

17 Help Your Reviewers continued…  Follow proposal instructions for length, font, margins, and auxiliary materials  Make the proposal easy to read –Compartmentalize information in sections –Provide navigation through sections with headings and sub-headings –Headings and sub-headings should tell the story –Leave white space (spacing between headings and smaller paragraphs) even if this means you have to be more concise –Avoid wall-to-wall text in an effort to squeeze in every last thought  If it looks appealing, and it is well structured it will be… –easier to read and review –easier to defend, and –convey the impression that the team is well organized and thoughtful

18 Re-submission Tips  Expect to be turned down the first time –Aim for an invitation for resubmission  Address reviewer comments (consider them free consultations)  Don ’ t express anger, arrogance, or hurt  Seek outside help to improve your proposal  Strengthen your team  Re-conceptualize, re-think & re-focus  Learn from your mistakes!

19 Policy-relevant results  Communication strategies that foster stakeholder participation, ownership, and uptake are important, and in some cases, essential.  Traditional communication strategies oriented to academic audiences should never be the primary mode of communication of policy relevant results.  There is growing belief in a collaborative model as the best basis for communication.

20 Involving Stakeholders  Decision-maker/researcher collaborations that do not pre-date the current proposal show that important linkages have not been made, and may not last beyond the instant.  If stakeholders can articulate how results will be used to support policy development or program delivery (such as in letters of support), the peer review committee will be more convinced of the study ’ s practical importance.  Cookie-cutter letters of support (usually written by the researcher) “ from ” decision-makers suggest that linkages have not been made, and raise doubts about uptake of results.

21 “ Most proposals fail because they leave reviewers wondering what the applicant will actually do. ” The Art of Writing Proposals, Social Science Research Council, New York

22 Research funding is for….  Salaries for research assistants, students, and trainees  Operating costs of data collection  Travel costs for data collection and limited travel for presentation to conferences  Costs of dissemination of results (knowledge transfer) Workshops with policy makers Non-technical publications Web pages  Don ’ t pad your budget  Add student stipends  Expect budget cuts

23 Research funding is NOT for…  Salaries for Principal Investigators  Extensive travel  Overhead (rent, furniture, some types of equipment) –Special capital grants are available through alternate competitions  Other “ goodies ”

24 In Summary…  A good proposal is a well crafted logical argument that: –Your idea will contribute to knowledge or practice –Your data collection and analysis plan is as strong as it could be –Your team is the best available to meet the challenge –You are able to anticipate and address emerging challenges –Your team can communicate the findings to appropriate audiences in ways that will promote their appropriate use


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