I find, that when I teach grant writing workshops to graduate students, the Q & A sessions are dynamic and informative to both students and to me. As with any teaching, questions help instructors understand the needs of students, and whether or not the instructor is successful in getting their information across. For my inaugural post, I have decided to structure this as sort of an advice column. If you have general grants related questions, please email them to email@example.com and I will answer them here.
I am frequently asked, “Project or person? Which is more important to funders?” I give the dreaded “it depends” answer. In a nutshell, there are generally two kinds of proposals for graduate students which depend on the student’s level.
The first type of proposal is usually written early in graduate school in response to a funding opportunity that requests information about the student and does not usually require an itemized budget. This “person” type of proposal showcases students’ potential to complete innovative, compelling research. This kind of funding invests in the researcher and is usually a similar application format to grad school applications. Proposal elements could include a personal statement or a statement of previous research. While reviewers of these applications will certainly examine the research a student is planning, they will likely also be asked to focus on personal statements. The statements become evidence by which reviewers evaluate the proposed research and their confidence in a student’s ability to conduct and complete it, knowing that the student has probably not done research at this level before. In these applications, the funder will request information about experiences outside of academia which have developed the student’s necessary skills for research, as well as on the proposed research itself. Many proposals of this type are submitted directly by the student to the funder and any awarded funds transmitted directly from funder to student. So, remember those grad school application essays? Save them and refine them as you progress through Level I and early in Level II. You may need them again after all!
The second type of proposal focuses almost solely on the research and is generally geared towards the Level III students who are at the dissertation phase. These proposals will ask for very little information about the person beyond a brief cv that lists qualifications. Usually research proposals of this type are awards made to the institution with the student as Principal Investigator (PI) or Co-PI. That means that the institution has to approve the research and submit the proposal on behalf of the student. Logistically, it tightens up your application deadline by 10 days prior to agency deadline because the application needs to be reviewed, approved and submitted by the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs at a scheduled time with a sponsored research officer (SRO).
If you find yourself beginning a proposal and are not sure how to balance the personal information with the project information, double check the funder guidelines and explore the funder’s website to see if their priorities emerge. A thorough reading of the guidelines should indicate how the proposal will be reviewed and which criteria will be more heavily weighted. If you are still not sure how to proceed, please contact us.