Across all disciplines, there is growing pressure to obtain grants to advance research. There are many reasons why funding is necessary to further research, from conducting trials, analysis and testing, to acquiring equipment, creating prototypes or paying for researchers’ time and travel. It all costs money.
Let’s face it – applying for research funding is tough. It can take months to write a decent proposal, and with so much competition, the chances of getting funding are often slim.
As to exactly how funding recipients are selected, many governments and private organizations use a system to ensure researchers are scored using the same measure, such as bibliometric and citation benchmarks. Some in the research community suggest being published in a highly reputable journal holds more weight than the actual contribution or impact of the work on the research community. Others say funding favors older and more reputable researchers over younger, innovative research groups, such as PhD and Masters students, and that this needs to change.
Regardless, researchers at any stage of their career can significantly improve their chances of a successful submission by using the right tools to support both their submission and their research project.
#1 Keep all source information in one place
Grant writing is a dynamic process, which is constantly moving and changing as team members discuss the best approach, provide comments and input. And yet, creating a funding submission is dependent on many static objects and documents in folders and subfolders – from Word documents to PDFs, spreadsheets, videos, social media comments and more. Then there are all the reference materials and citations, emails and funding agency sites to keep track of. Consequently, researchers often find that they work with information all over the place. The idea that you can take all of this information and store and work with documents in one place can make a significant difference in the speed and efficiency of completing a proposal.
This allows you to collect and collapse documents into one view so you can explore themes and build a comprehensive, coherent structure. From there, you can create categories and a hierarchical structure, allowing your paragraphs to flow in a logical manner and providing easy access to relevant quotes.
#2 Focus on the quality of your work
Be clear on what is important about your research and how you’ll go about it. To ensure the quality of your work, use tools to categorize and classify data, including auto coding and data summary options like framework matrices. Coding brings together different themes and topics, or entities like places and people, into a single category. This makes it easier to search, compare and identify patterns in your data so that you can develop rigorous research that stands up to scrutiny.
#3 Create a living project
Begin with feedback from a prior proposal or multiple drafts of a proposal to create a history in your software platform. From there, you can track and manage your implementation of the project. Input any updates from the grant provider so the information is all in one place.
If your project is successful, you can import the award documents and reporting requirements you receive and track your funds right within the project. If you are rejected, it doesn’t mean your idea will never achieve funding. It might be that you need to make some changes, or that there was just not enough funding available in the round you were in. Don’t give up.
#4 Collaborate in real-time
In most cases, there is more than one person working on a grant application. For tracking purposes, the right software can show the dates of creation and modification as well as the initials of the editor in the landing pad. It’s very easy to see who has done what and when. It also allows you to collaborate in real time and see other researcher’s updates as you work.
One recent study revealed that it’s more important for researchers to build their collaboration network over what publications they produce or where they are cited. It suggests that well known, highly-reputable researchers with an established record of success are more likely to receive higher amounts of funding. If this is indeed true, then it pays to keep track of your grant writing efforts and build respect within the academic and research community. Both your organization and your own career will have been built on the expertise that you and your research team have developed over years of hard work. Use tools to track your successes and any attempts toward helping you and your organization be successful. This can also help demonstrate to the research community your determination, rigor and efficiency in applying for grants.
#6 Show your productivity
According to the above report, the past productivity of researchers also has a positive effect on funding. It revealed ‘a positive relationship between both quantity and quality of their papers on the amount of funding received.’ In other words, the more productive researchers are, the more likely they are to receive a higher amount of funding. This level of productivity can be captured and tracked via software to reflect different phases of your projects and how they have evolved.
Finally, get others to proof your work – even those outside of the research community. They may identify new angles you had not thought of.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions of the grant provider – there is always an opportunity to get in touch and ask whether they think your idea has legs enough to apply. If you do end up applying, don’t forget to read the rule book. It may seem minor but adhering to font size and spacing are little things that all add up in the long run. Good luck!
Editors Note: This post was first published in November 2019 and was updated in February 2022 for accuracy.