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HORT603 - Grants and Grantsmanship

Characteristics of a Good Grant Proposal


  • It should have new/novel/innovative ideas.

  • It should be likely to advance an area of science.

  • It should fill critical gaps in knowledge of a specific area.

  • It should be "science-driven".

  • It should be working toward a long-term goal.

  • It should have a thoughtful and up-to-date literature review.

  • It should have well stated questions.

  • It should have preliminary data which support the feasibility of the research proposal.

  • It should be well written and succinct and follow the program guidelines.

    W. A. Tacker Jr., who has written regularly in the Purdue DSP Newsletter "Research Review", with a column entitled "Some Advice on Getting Grants", stresses two important points which will influence the success of your proposal :

  • Excellent science.

  • Crystal clear presentation.

    Tacker provides some specific advice concerning excellent science drawn, in part, from a paper by Wagner, P.D. (1991) "On writing a grant application: a personal view." The Physiologist 34: 29-31.

  • Without excellent science there is no possibility of funding.

  • Excellent science contains the following elements:
    • A basic idea that is novel, significant, and based on sound logical principles.
    • An experimental approach that is technically feasible.
    • A study design adequate to achieve an answer that is an unambiguous as the state of the art permits (including adequate numbers of experiments, suitable planning of controls, and a work load that is appropriate both to the dollars requested and to the time proposed ... neither too ambitious nor too thin).
    • Use of the most current, specific, and sensitive methodologies, and efficient use of resources to achieve the goals of the grant.

    "It is fair to state that bad molecular biology will not fare as well as good physiology at review time. On the other hand, in 1991 it is fairly evident that those who can put together science at the molecular level with cellular, organ, or systemic physiology to explain the molecular basis of function are likely to be the trendsetters." ..... Wagner (1991).

    With regard to clarity, Tacker ("Research Review", September 1991; Vol. 4. No.8) notes :

    According to Wagner (1991), the goal of writing a clear proposal is to..."have all immediate uncertainties preaddressed by you in the body of the text [so that] the reviewer will not be frustrated by a poorly structured application in which the specific aims and the methods cannot be related to one another in an easy manner. The reviewer will have a clear idea of the quantitative aspect of your application in terms of number of studies so that he/she can properly assess your budget requests....In brief, your application will be characterized by clarity, brevity, and lack of needless repetition."

    Given that reviewers are very busy, they often examine proposals late at night, during trips, and at other times when they are tired or overloaded with work. Under these circumstances a clear, concise, easy to read proposal will be greatly appreciated by the reviewer.

    In presenting material for the "Background and Significance" of your proposal..."It is worthwhile to have a general opening paragraph to paint the broad picture.....Next should follow a concise (not rambling) sufficient (but not exhaustive) literature review of the area.... be sure that the reviewer 1) will be reassured that you know what others have done; and 2) can discern your thought process in how you arrived at the hypothesis you are testing."

    With regard to the budget ..."Do not attempt to fool reviewers. In any review group there are enough experienced reviewers to recognize bogus budgets when they see them. Honesty shows and will be reflected by the reviewer's response to your budget request. Artificial padding is very irritating to a reviewer and will likely produce a negative reaction."

    "Do your homework to determine the minimum equipment needed in terms of items and dollars required to do the job".

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www www.hort.purdue.edu
David Rhodes
Department of Horticulture & Landscape Architecture
Horticulture Building
625 Agriculture Mall Drive
Purdue University
West Lafayette, IN 47907-2010
Last Update: 01/07/08