of Sheep and Shepherd – not grant ready

Photo Jean-Luc Lebrun – Mont Saint Michel


Grant writers look for the financial health of the grantee because poor financial health  means trouble. Does your organization rely solely on grants for their funding, or do they have other means of financing research, such as licensing of patents, national program financing, partnership with industries… In  other words, grant writers want to avoid situations where the grant applicant is desperate to get cash to survive, because desperation often results in hurriedness, and hurriedness rarely bears fruit. In a world where all applications are graded with an A+ or an F, only the well-prepared get funded.

Grant writers also look for answers. They should not be the ones to fill the blanks. Sounds familiar? The senior PI, without a solid plan and research objective, may ask junior researchers to conceive one. The design of the plan is then left up to the less-paid unguided research associates under the excuse that preparing a grant provides hands-on experience in grant applications. I have seen that before, and I have looked into the eyes of unprepared junior researchers unable to answer the simplest questions about the grant they prepare without referring to the PI for answers. They get thrown in at the deep-end trying to accomplish the impossible when, in fact, a pilot study, or exploratory research is first needed before moving on to the larger grant they are asked to prepare. And as they reveal their problems to their PI, the PI alters the grant objectives based on his or her new understanding of the problem. The ground keeps shifting. Maybe this is a valid way to conduct research; But it is not a valid way to prepare for a grant. The senior PIs should indeed involve junior researchers in grant preparation, but the research design, the hypotheses, and the research objectives are squarely in the PI’s camp. Sheep do not guide the shepherd.

Author: jllebrun

General Partner at Scientific Reach - training scientists in the science of clear writing and presenting - grants/papers/posters.

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