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K-State Today

April 21, 2016

Get better grant results with proposal development assistance

Submitted by Sarah Hancock

Writing proposals for grant funding isn't easy, and the landscape is increasingly competitive. In fiscal year, or FY, 2014, the National Institutes of Health funded 18.1 percent of research project grant applications. The National Science Foundation success rate for competitively reviewed proposals in the same period was 23 percent. The U.S. Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture's flagship program, the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative, funded 11 percent of FY 2014 proposals.

Succeeding in the face of those odds requires more than a strong idea: Proposals must be strategic, clear, adequately detailed, and written for the right audience. Integrating pieces of large multidisciplinary and multi-institutional proposals into a cohesive whole is particularly difficult. Development directors in the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs are available to provide proposal development assistance. Proposal experts offer classes, workshops and training events each semester — the last session for this semester will explore the Fulbright Scholar Program — but they also are available for consultations with individual investigators or groups who are planning proposal submissions. Other events this year have addressed boarder impacts and outreach, the NSF CAREER program, obtaining funding from the Department of Defense, and tips for developing better grant submissions.

Here are some examples of how proposal development assistance can help you succeed in your research, scholarly, and creative activity and discovery efforts.

  • Individual consultations: Read the weekly Funding Connection publication from ORSP, then talk about your work with our development directors so they can help you identify the best opportunities. They also can provide tips for faculty applying to a new funding agency and advice on when to contact agency program managers to discuss ideas.
  • Group coordination for large submissions: Development directors can help you work well in advance to develop a timeline and a submission. Successful teams often start a year or more ahead of time to compete for multi-institutional grants or research centers. Budgets are a particularly tough area that takes more time as proposals involve more investigators, projects, or institutions, and development directors can provide advice and expertise in this area. They also can help ensure that your proposal tells the right story to the audience — your reviewers — and that all the pieces and projects form a cohesive whole.
  • Broader impacts and outreach and minority-serving institutions: Development directors are informed about different campus groups and can serve as a matchmaker to help you avoid "reinventing the wheel" to meeting proposal requirements. 
  • Finding collaborators: If you're interested in interdisciplinary proposals but don't have the necessary contacts in other fields, development directors can help connect you to others who may be interested.

Visit the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs website for more information, then call 785-532-6195 to make an appointment.