February 13, 2010


Read again last night the strategic priorities of my funding agency (National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute), Healthy People 2020 and the American Heart Association in preparation for refining the significance section. I think it’s important to use words that are similar to those in these documents. I always think of significance in two ways – significance of the problem and the potential significance of my study findings. Given the new guidelines, I also want to use the word “impact” in there as well.

February 12, 2010


Met with the budget person today. She’s great at getting the budget details all down. It’s an art of when to start the budget – you don’t want to go too soon, but you don’t want to go too late, either. If you go too soon, you end up making lots of changes in the budget and using the time of your budget people inappropriately. On the other hand, a hastily put together budget at the end leaves you really open to making mistakes. I like to go when I have made my decisions about sample size, basic data collection points, and most of my procedures (well, at least 98% of my decisions about the procedures). Doing a budget about a month before a grant goes out is also a reality check on the feasibility and allows some time for you to revisit some of the costs that you had put into the study. Note: if you want to go over the $500,000 yearly limit in direct costs on a budget, you need to get program officer permission to do this 6 weeks in advance. (Not that I would advise going over this limit – it should be rarely done and few people other than seasoned investigators can really get this permission.)

February 11, 2010

Go Cavs!

I guess I should explain that line at the end of my last posting - Go Cavs! I am a big basketball fan and watching LeBron James every other night is one of the delights in my life. What does this have to do with grant writing? - well, it's my way of clearing my head before I go to bed. A way to relax with my family. A way to turn off the problems of the grant for a little while. Hopefully, every grant writer has a way of doing this, because grant writing is just plain hard work. Am I sounding sorry for myself? Must be time to go home and watch the Cavs. I'll be feeling better tomorrow.

In the Zone

Sorry – you have not heard from me in over a week. I'v been ‘in the zone” – writing zone, that is. Grant writing at the end is so engulfing that I tend block out major portions of my life – including this blog, evidently. Please forgive me. In fact, my family, please forgive me. My family knows that I come and go from these fogs and now they just kind of ride them out. They now know that the laundry will pile up and there will be no food in the house if they don’t do something about it. It's really kind of embarrassing how I can just zone out for days at a time when grant writing. Note, I do try and get rest, however. I have found that if I do not keep a decent sleeping schedule I cannot do good work on the grant. So, for me – I let other stuff go, but I try to get enough rest. Go Cavs!!

January 27, 2010

Dark January Days of Writing

It is dark and deep here in Cleveland in January. Getting up early to write in the mornings means that you are doing it in the dark. It’s kind of painful for me – I am really not a morning person, but I seem to be too exhausted at night to work these days. I really would prefer to write for the June/July round of grants instead of the Feb/March round, then it gets light early and you somehow feel better about getting up early. …and if it would just stop snowing!

January 25, 2010

How Much Passion Should be in a Grant Proposal?

It’s kind of a joke among my close faculty colleagues about how much “passion” I write into my grants. I see persuasive arguments being made in grants in lots of ways. Some people use lots of passion, others are strictly- to- the-facts kind of grant writers. I’m on the more passion end of the spectrum. Not that I use flowery language (a real no-no in grantsmanship), but I do like to raise some emotion about my area and for my project. It’s tough to strike the right balance, but the right balance can be very persuasive. I think the best way to test this is to ask others to read it – and then be open to what they say if they think it should be toned down.

January 24, 2010

It’s So Iterative!

You’d think that something like grant writing would be so logical, so linear. It’s not. It’s a very iterative, unfolding process that takes lots of unpredictable turns. Mostly it is the going back and forth that is painful for me. I think our team has made a decision and that we will go with it, and then we change it. I guess a grant is really a complex puzzle. I usually use the analogy of a puzzle when someone asks me about grant writing. It’s a lot of decisions strung together that all interact with each other. Figuring out the intricate puzzle (and then making it appear so simple and elegant in your grant writing) is our “work” of grant writing - creating the elegant pattern of our good idea for the reader.