“It sure feels like it out there”

The art of writing (grants)…


“Here we go again on my own, going down the only road…”. True words ring in my head before I embark on writing 2 more grants applications. Two more to a long list of grant applications. Then it struck me: it is an art in itself.

We may have all dabbled in some writing. I have co-authored some articles, and even am part of a poetry book (released yesterday), yet writing grants is something else. I am proud of my articles and of my creative writing, but they are accomplishments of the past. A grant proposal is a window to the future.

We all get disappointed when rejected, this holds true when we try to get our accomplishments published. We try a few more times and if it is good enough it will stick and be presented to a large audience. Grants writing is different.

First of all it takes great effort: a dense collection of scientific knowledge from our peers and some of our own results packed in a boxing glove to give the proposal the necessary POW it needs, while making (educated) projections of things to come. It may takes months of your time, charming potential collaborators, shaving down a thesis into a 4 page proposal, while trying to hook the reviewers to read beyond the first paragraph. All that is work.

The art is the sell your idea. The science behind it has nothing to do with the art. We need the grant to do the science, but we need the art get the grant.

It is no surprise in our high-paced-world of today, where the return on investment (i.e. tax payers money and donations to do scientific work) is expected to have a greater impact than ever before, that some cheat. One can simply hire an artist to do the art for you: ghost writers of grant applications are (mostly) not scientists, but the successful ones are surely great writers

I like writing, I like writing posts like these, and like writing stories on my days off. I even like writing grants, a sentiment not shared by all scientist. I even think some of my best ever writing is in some grant proposals. That does not reflect the idea or the science behind it since the success of a grant proposal is measured by how much money you get after you submit it.

Grant writing is a competition: only the best proposals get the grants. Does that reflect the best ideas? The best track records? The most clever political move? The best writing? Luck? How can we assess the marketing power of our proposal?

I have some nice proposals on my drive that did not get funded. Science and results drive new innovations, new ideas, and some old proposals may have some valuable ideas. The current work may just take a different route for those proposals not to be re-painted for another gallery. I am sure that more capable scientists have even more exciting ideas packed in their boxing gloves stored on their dusty hard-drives (or floppies). I would love to read some of them. Not to steal, but to learn, to get excited, to enjoy the art of writing (grants)…

(I would appreciate comments on such a collection of “old” ideas and “old” grant proposals for the public domain. Of course comments and thoughts on the post a welcome. What are we without proper peer-review?)

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