Writing major grant applications (like ARC grants) takes time, this requires planning. In a previous post I looked at how much time it takes me. Here I’ll discuss some of the strategies I when planning the application.
I start writing the proposal early. Starting writing months ahead gets me thinking seriously about the ideas and gives me plenty of thinking time (not reported above). I always have a notebook on hand, once I start I never know when an idea will pop into my head.
Writing, writing, writing. This helps get the ideas flowing and irons out the logical inconsistencies. I only use half of less of what I write, but I need to write to sift out and refine the good quality ideas (I understand that’s not the same for everyone).
I start early on both the project design and the ‘investigator’ sections. I find I need as much time to think about the ‘investigator’ sections as the project design section. Good ideas for how to clearly communicate your career track record and past work are invaluable (though I find the part where I’m writing about myself the most painful part of grant writing).
Recruiting collaborators. Starting early also gives me time to recruit co-investigators on the grant, and get their input.
Recruit experienced reviewers. You need to start early to give them time to have input
Understand the rules and jargon. Grant assessment criteria are full of jargon and words with very specific meanings. e.g. ‘Benefit’ and ‘Significance’ mean two different things to the ARC, if you mix them up you will probably score badly. Experienced grant writers can help point you in the write direction.
I don’t spend much time on the budget until the final month. I have a rough idea of the limit and what I need to do what’s in the grant, but its one of the last things I refine, since the details are very dependent on what ends up in the project design.
Finally, if its your first time writing a grant prepare to be overwhelmed by the number of different sections. In an ARC there’s project design, institutional support statement, budget, budget justification, industry partner support letters (for some grants), investigator career opportunities, investigator career impact, investigator citation metrics, … it goes on and on.
Starting early will give you time to focus on getting your head around what needs to go into each individual section.