The following links will take you to other websites that have answers to these frequently asked questions.
Visit the HSD Site
Begin by deciding whether you need additional closely supervised training, want to work semi-independently under a mentor, or can undertake independent research in your own name. You can learn this by talking to others at a similar level of career development and by conferring with senior colleagues in your field. Next, think of your eligibility in the grant makers' terms. What is your most advanced degree? M.D., Ph.D. or other degree? When did you obtain your degree or finish your post-degree training? Are you a US citizen or permanent resident? How much money/year do you need? Grant makers consider this information to determine the awards for which you are eligible to apply.
There are four things you can do that will help a lot.
Beginning investigators nearly always write too ambitious a proposal. You need to cut it down to fit the time and money you will have. Get an experienced grant writer and investigator in your field to read the application and help you trim it to a realistic size. Do a detailed budget justification, in which you figure costs for the various items in each experiment you plan to do and also project the number of experiments you can do and need to do in a budget period, typically one year. Particularly, if you have a start-up grant in mind, with upper budget limits, calculate what you can do with the limits you have.
Unfocused writing ranks right up there with the overly ambitious proposal on the "to-be-avoided" list. In fact, the two problems often go together. Lack of focus frequently results from having too many general-sounding aims, i.e., being ambitious without being specific. (Incidentally, unfocused writing is the major correctable fault of more experienced investigators as well.) Most of us have difficulty recognizing when our writing is unfocused. The best help comes from having an intelligent nonexpert (experienced grant writer from another discipline) read the proposal. If he/she can understand what you've written, the chances are good that you are well focused. Read other successful applications submitted to the same grant maker, and if possible the written critiques of those successful grants, to see what the reviewers are looking for.
Get some preliminary data. Nothing persuades a reviewer more effectively. Beginning investigators often see this as a catch-22. How can I get data without a grant? How can I get a grant without data? Apply for some small start-up grants that may not require pilot data. This will allow you both to generate data and to show that you can get funds, before you apply for a larger grant. When you are negotiating for your first job, ask for the start-up funds you truly need. Once your new employer has chosen you, they want to give you reasonable resources to succeed. When writing your first large grant proposal, line up collaborators or consultants who can do the things that you cannot. Write a very specific budget justification for personnel, if you have to justify paid co-investigators, and get specific and detailed letters of support, if your help comes in the form of unpaid consultants.
Explain exactly where your work in your mentor's lab leaves off and where your own begins. Give full credit to your mentor's good work but explain that it has not gone far enough in a particular area where you are smart enough to strike a new path. Generate some independent data and/or show expertise in new techniques in the Preliminary Data section of your grant.
Ask for the money you need to do the work, first being sure that you are not being overly ambitious. As suggested above for reeling in an overly ambitious project, figure out the costs for a typical experiment, figure out how many experiments you can do in a year, and multiply the numbers through. Don't try to do your work on a shoestring, but do not pad the budget either. Reviewers are very good at detecting padding. (They probably tried it themselves at some time.) Talk to experienced investigators who know what is a reasonable total budget to request from the grant maker to whom you are applying, if this information is not explicitly stated.
How important is breathing? Swallow your pride and remember that asking your friends and colleagues for their criticisms makes a lot more sense than waiting to hear those criticisms from reviewers who don't know you and thus cannot have a personal interest in your future. Make sure you ask people who have the time to read your proposal and give them enough time to read your draft carefully, preferably ten days to two weeks for a 20-25 page research plan.
This is difficult to answer until you have written a few proposals but rest assured that, like a home remodeling job, it will take at least twice as long as you expect. Here are two ways to look at it (1) For a major research proposal such as an R01 grant for NIH, six months before the due date is not too early to start. If you need to generate and evaluate preliminary data, you may need to begin much sooner. (2) Figure on at least 120 hours of writing for a typical NIH R01 grant, after you have formulated your ideas and done the background reading. Recognize that you cannot write it straight through. You must give a draft time to rest, so you can come back fresh, and you also must give your in-house reviewers (you do have them, don't you?) time to read their copies and get them back to you.
Most reviewers and grant makers want beginning investigators to succeed. Many agencies and professional societies offer types of grants targeted to investigators at the beginning of their careers. Often (not always: there are no guarantees) reviewers cut some slack for junior investigators, and, in fact, may be instructed to do so. Finally, remember that the success rate for new and competing grants submitted from UW is about 50% overall, better than general figures quoted for NIH or other agencies.
Go to the Forms link on the Researcher's Guide: http://www.washington.edu/research/guide/forms.html.
This will take you to links for UW Specific forms and granting agency forms. You can access PDF and Web forms as well as fill-in templates in Word and Excel for both PC and Macintosh.
NIH now offers Forms 398 (for most new grant applications), 2590 (for non-competing renewals), and 416-1 (for fellowships) on their web site in fillable PDF and Rich Text Format ( RTF) versions. With RTF files, you can fill the forms in with MS Word on either a PC or Macintosh computer, a major improvement over having only PDF forms. Formatting challenges (as of July 2003) are not as great as in the past, but give yourself extra time or ask an experienced user. An experienced Macintosh user recommends 1) unprotecting each .rtf document at the beginning and never protecting it again and 2) on the "abstract" page, lock the size of the text box where the abstract goes, to keep it from growing as you type. Find these revised forms at http://grants.nih.gov/grants/forms.htm.
There is no one "best" site for forms. Obviously, NIH forms from the NIH
web site will be accepted. NSF requires submission of grants through their
on-line FastLane system. The forms available from the
A GC-1 form is the UW internal routing form that must accompany a grant
application as it makes the rounds for internal review and sign-off before
submission to the granting agency. As of July 1, 2003, all proposals
submitted at the UW must use the electronic version of the GC-1, the eGC-1. The
electronic GC1 will eventually make electronic routing and approval
available to all researchers. While folks must fill out the eGC-1, full
electronic routing is still in the future. Now you have to print the eGC-1
after filling it out online, and hard copy it around for signature.The
paper GC-1 form is no longer accepted.
The "System to Administer Grants Electronically," or SAGE, is the new UW
electronic proposal submission system that will contain a new grants
database, an electronic GC1 form (eGC1) and electronic routing for approval
signatures. The eGC-1 is the first step in implementing this system. UW
grant writers will be able track when an internal review step is completed
and remove this source of anxiety (that's the good news). For more
information, see the SAGE
Those required to approve the eGC-1 form include, at a minimum, the P.I., his/her Department Chair, Dean of the P.I.'s School or College, and the Office of Sponsored Programs. Other departments, schools or colleges (for most schools), offices and agencies within UW may also need to review the proposal and sign the eGC-1 form, depending on the inclusion of co-investigators from other units, the scope and content of the proposed work, and the rules of a particular School.
You must have an eGC-1 form to go with any grant or contract proposal that you submit as an investigator at UW. Under no circumstances may a person employed by UW submit a grant or contact proposal that has not been reviewed and approved (i.e., signed) by OSP.
It is impossible to a give firm answer to this question. Usually the real question is, how late can I wait? How dangerously do you want to live? The official word from GCS is
"the proposal should be approved by the department chairperson and submitted to the dean at least two weeks prior to the date on which the proposal must be mailed. . . . . After approval by the dean's office, the original and two copies of the proposal should be forwarded to the Office of Sponsored Programs at least ten working days prior to the mailing date necessary to meet the sponsor's deadline."
It is a poorly kept secret that many grant writers and their staff abuse these guidelines and, through the heroic efforts of staff who review proposals, the applications nearly always make the deadline.
No matter how you fill in the blank, you need to get approval for certain activities you propose in a grant because somewhere there is a binding regulation that requires it. The privilege of accepting Federal or State money in a grant carries with it the obligation to accept their regulations. (This is the Perverse Version of Golden Rule: Those that have the gold make the rules.) Failing to comply with these regulations can result in denial of funds or other, more serious consequences for the University. Many of these regulations have been promulgated by the Federal government; some are University rules that allow UW to comply with a Federal or State law. Asking "why" beyond this point may be an interesting mental exercise but it won't get your proposal written.
Congratulations. You have entered the intriguing world of subcontracts. This question does not lend itself to a quick answer but be aware that much of the trouble grant writers have with subcontracts comes from not initiating the subcontracting process early enough. Start by reading GIM 7: Subcontracts (http://www.washington.edu/research/osp/gim/gim7.html). A Subcontracts Checklist can be downloaded from the G&C Services web site.
UW has one or more web sites to answer these questions and most others.
If your topic is not in the above list, try searching for it from the
home page of the UW web site. The
intra-UW search engine is powered by Google and works very well. For the
above popular subjects, check out the information below.