Parts of grants.
Your grant will be assessed primarily on whether you
1) have a good idea and 2) have
a good track record (publications). But excellence in both will just get you into the
top quarter. Unfortunately for many granting agencies, that is not good enough. To move up
higher in ranking requires a well written grant. This section outlines how to do this. We
will use the CIHR operating grant as a model.
You want to turn the reviewers into your
- Remember that they are often overloaded.
- You want your excellence to leap out of the page.
- Most reviewers want to enthusiastically endorse good
research. Give them the information with which to do so.
Read, understand, and answer each question
- Reviewers expect particular information in a particular place.
- You are asking for trouble if you omit information, add unnecessary
information, or provide the right information in the wrong place.
- find the committee that deals with your type of grant (by
asking someone whom you know on the committee)
- find out the areas of interest of the committee members.
Two of them will be the internal reviewers and give your grant its overall rating
- when you write your grant,
keep in mind the interests of
the probable internal and external reviewers. You want them to become your advocates
- This is often an overly neglected section.
- Suggest like minded scientists (not obvious friends).
- Give your suggestions some thought.
- Your audience is usually everyone on the committee.
- In theory this does not bear on the merits of the proposal.
you can antagonize the committee if you are extravagant.
- Usually considered last, i.e. after the merit of the proposal has been
Most agencies are willing to give you what really need to finish the
- You must, however, justify this to them.
- You must give concrete evidence of how you are trying to keep costs
- Your proposal is often read by only 4 to 5 people: usually only
two internal reviewers on the committee and two or three external reviewers.
- Consider who the reviewers might be.
- Cite these potential reviewers in your proposal where appropriate.
- You may not agree with their work but you must at least understand it and
treat it with respect.
What is your focus?
- You must convince your reviewers that you have a clear sense of
direction and that this direction is important.
- Where are you coming from?
- Where are you now?
- Where are you going?
- You must explain this with clarity.
Applicants often make the mistake of listing every idea they have ever had.
- Be selective.
- List those that are most pertinent.
- Hold some in reserve. You can always use them for another application (if
you still find them interesting then).
Summary & Progress pages
- These are the most important pages of the entire grant because they may be the only two
pages read thoroughly by the entire committee.
- Next to lots of publications, this is a successful grant's
most important ingredient.
- Show with figures what you have done up to now.
- Data figures add a great deal of credibility.
- Propose experiments that are reasonable for the length of time proposed.
- If in the last three years you have finished only one experiment, your
credibility will not be enhanced if you now propose to do ten in the next three.
- Think ahead to your next re-application. It is better, in two or three
years time, to be able to state truthfully that you have completed the bulk of what you
had proposed than to list excuses for why you did not.
- Hold some of your ideas in reserve for the next time.
Advice from Lance M. Optican on
Copyright © 1995
Department of Physiology and Pharmacology
University of Western Ontario
London Ontario Canada
Created 28 Sept 1995
10 January 2007