Writing Successful Grants: Putting It Into Words

This blog is part four of a four-part series on grant writing inspired by resources published by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and others. 

After a long and arduous journey, you have finally arrived at the last stage of your quest to create the world’s most inspiring grant proposal: writing it all down.  

One of the most challenging parts of putting together a grant proposal is simply writing it. You must write to build the reviewers’ confidence in you and demonstrate your contributions to your field, effectively illustrating your qualities as a researcher and your capacity to achieve your goals.

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Writing Successful Grants: Consider Your Audience

This blog is part three of a four-part series on grant writing inspired by resources published by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and others.  

You have thoughtfully designed your research and carefully crafted a foolproof budget proposal. Now you come upon the dreaded review committee. But fear not! There are ways to enchant the mysterious reviewer, to reveal their wants and needs and win them to your cause.  

professionals at a workshop; writing successful grants requires understanding your audience

In this blog, we will discuss why considering your audience should be one of your foremost priorities in applying for a grant. You should identify your reviewers and capture their interest through a well-organized and compelling story. If you can effectively frame the intent of your research and successfully communicate how it will benefit your field of study, your chances of completing your quest – or securing funding – can improve ­drastically.

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Writing Successful Grants: Planning Your Budget

This blog is part two of a four-part series on grant writing inspired by resources published by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and others. 

Your quest for composing and submitting the perfect grant proposal is well underway. You have found your niche and designed your research accordingly. However, you must tread carefully—you will soon have to endure the next trial: planning your budget.

It is important in any grant application to effectively outline and clarify your budget needs. Any poorly considered aspects of your budget may not reflect well on the overall viability of your proposal, so make sure you provide your reviewers with an accurate description of what resources you will need to accomplish your research goals.

Find your Sweet Spot

A budget that is significantly over or under what would otherwise be reasonable to achieve your goals can undermine reviewers’ confidence in your proposal, as it may seem to them that you don’t fully understand the scope of your research. With your budget proposal, you need to find the range that is just right for you—not too big, and not too small. You will be asked to outline the things that you need to fulfill the aims that you put forth. You should request the money to purchase what you need and provide good justification for your expenses, especially big-ticket items like expensive equipment, as well as personnel.  

Be sure that you carefully review the Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) for applicable criteria that you will need to follow in building and planning your budget. There may be limits on the types of expenses you can request, spending caps and overall funding limits. Reviewers will not only determine whether your budget is reasonable, but whether it complies with governing cost principles and other requirements unique to the award for which you are applying.

To learn more, read the NIH article: “Writing a Winning Application―Nail your Budget.”

Wants vs. Needs

Take the time to identify those budget items that are necessary to your work and those that are not. As you build out your Specific Aims and design your experiments, your needs will become clear. Make sure that in the process of doing so you seek opportunities to offset cost. Gauge the support that you’ll get from your institution, including resources and funding capacity. You may be able to share equipment, resources and space with other investigators. You should also be prepared for some less obvious expenses like instrument warranty and maintenance costs. If you do need to ask for a high-budget item, be certain that it is a necessity, justify the purchase appropriately, and explain how not having it could impact your project.

Before you ask for money in your application, make sure that what you’re asking for is essential. You should also provide details on the resources that are already available to you. Reviewers will determine whether the costs defined are reasonable given the research aims and methods laid out in your proposal.

Read more about distinguishing your wants versus your needs in this NIH article: “Writing a Winning Application―Define Resources.”

Direct vs. Indirect Costs

It is important to understand the difference between direct costs and indirect costs. Direct costs are those expenses that come from your research: salaries, travel, equipment and supplies. You’ll also be requesting facilities and administrative (F&A) costs, or indirect costs. Examples of indirect costs include payroll, departmental administration and student services, among others. F&A costs are determined by applying your organization’s negotiated rate to your direct cost base.

The total costs requested in your budget will be allowable direct costs and allowable F&A costs. While you will only need to itemize your direct costs, it is important to understand how both are defined and calculated so you can build a realistic budget with all the key elements accounted for.  

For more about direct versus indirect costs, read this NIH article: “Know the Basics for Facilities and Administrative Costs.”

Your budget deserves careful consideration. The review committee will want to see a budget that strikes the right balance between sensibility and necessity. Take the time to parse out your wants versus your needs and account for all the moving pieces. Your review committee is more likely to approve an application that puts forth a thoughtfully prepared and well-studied budget proposal, which will bring you that much closer to the funding you need.


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Writing Successful Grants: Framing Your Research

This blog is part one of a four-part series on grant writing inspired by resources published by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and others.

Like so many ambitious scientists before, you are setting out on the most perilous of quests―writing a grant proposal. Between your grant and the promise of riches untold lie a series of important tasks that you must complete to win the funding you need. We begin with the pièce de résistance of any grant proposal: your research.

Your research is the highlight of your application. It is important to summarize your research well and describe how it will make an impact in your field. You must create a focused hypothesis that can be tested through well-developed aims and experiments, and explain to your review committee where you fit into the larger context of your area of study. Your research is the whole point of your proposal, so it’s important to make it count.

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Save Precious Time with Same-Well Multiplexing

Scientist performing a multi-well assay. Same-well multiplexing enables you to look at one event from several perspectives.

A graduate student believes he has mastered the art of “the assay”. No need to run duplicates, he knows exactly which one will get him the answers he needs right away.  

To challenge this, his PI proposes an exercise. He asks of the graduate student, “What happens when you treat cells with doxorubicin?”

The graduate student raises his cells, treats them accordingly, and decides to run a cell viability assay to determine their fate. He returns to the PI with the final verdict: his cells are dead.

The PI takes a look at the data and asks the graduate student to repeat the experiment with an additional assay for cytotoxicity―but the cytotoxicity assay shows that the cell membranes are intact, which only puzzles the graduate student. The PI asks him to run a third assay for apoptosis, and when the student does so, it becomes clear that the cells are dying.

The PI uses this opportunity to make his point: “Now do you see why I ask for more than one assay?”

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Streamlining Research: The Merits of Adaptive Clinical Trials

Clinical trials are arguably the backbone of medical advancement. But the trials most worth doing are usually large, costly and time-intensive, demanding extensive resources and personnel. During the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a marked uptick in the number of clinical trials, many of which are woefully flawed with issues ranging from insufficient sample size to bad design. The published research that follows is often redundant or inconclusive.

So how can scientists designing and running clinical trials streamline their efforts to reduce waste and achieve more useful outcomes? The answer could be adaptive clinical trials.

Adaptive clinical trials are designed so they can be modified as data are being collected
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The Power of Binding: Using Trivalent PROTACs to Enhance Protein Degradation

The University of Dundee in Scotland and Promega Corporation have developed a new approach to targeted protein degradation: a revolutionary “three-headed hydra” with a unique three-pronged structure that packs a powerful punch.

3D rendering of trivalent protacs
The “three-headed hydra” is made up of three protein-binding ligands rather than two.
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ProDye Brings Sanger Sequencing to Multiple Platforms

Researchers looking for new chemistry for Sanger sequencing need look no further than the ProDye™ Terminator Sequencing System, developed by Promega for use in capillary electrophoresis instruments. Sanger sequencing, or dye-terminator sequencing, has been the gold standard of DNA analysis for over 40 years and is a method commonly used in labs around the world. Even as new technologies emerge, Sanger sequencing remains the most cost-effective method for sequencing shorter pieces of DNA.

Sanger sequencing depicted as results on a musical cleft
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