A grant proposal can be declined for many reasons, but one of the most disappointing may come with reviews such as, "It isn't clear that the project would advance the field." Or similarly, "There isn't significant difference between the proposed work and research that recently has been conducted in this area." Arming yourself with an awareness of state of the art research and the funding landscape in your field, and demonstrating it in your proposal, is well worth the time and effort to help ensure this doesn't happen to you. Before you write, review current literature, your agency's funding priorities, and its recent funding history. Here are some starting points:
- Explore the funding database of past/recent awards. Many foundations and all federal funding agencies provide online searchable access to their funding history and grantee information (e.g., grants.gov, Mellon Foundation, NSF, NIH, research.gov, etc.) These valuable tools offer insight into current funding priorities and thematic trends.
- Conduct a thorough literature search. Once you learn who has been funded, view their publications to familiarize yourself with the context, rationale, and results of those studies. ResearchGate, for example, is a useful tool for this. An early review of the literature not only establishes the context and rationale for your study, but confirms your research focus is among the most relevant for funding in your field.
- Carefully review the funding opportunity announcement. Often, it will detail specific guidance on what will not be funded and research categories that are areas of emphasis. Many online funding announcements feature a link to recent awards made through that program, with abstracts.
- Speak to the program officer. A recent issue of our PDS Narrative newsletter can help you prepare for this conversation.
- Explore online preprint servers. Preprint servers enable rapid dissemination of new research to the scholarly community prior to publication. Take advantage of them to familiarize yourself with the work being shared. Some examples are OpenScienceFramework, PeerJ, Cogprints, BioRxiv, and arXiv (of which IU is an institutional member). To find others, search online for your field + preprint server.
- Explore data sharing sites. Research data available on these sites may be useful in some fields to inspire new hypotheses and ensure a new project does not closely duplicate work that has been submitted by other researchers. Examples are FITBIR, SysBioCube, and ClinicalTrials.gov.
- Talk to your colleagues. Scholars in your field are likely to know of research similar to your own and what is being funded.
By targeting new technologies and databases to engage the most up-to-date research in your field, you will be better prepared to articulate how your work will advance theory and practice in the field. We hope these tools and tips help encourage excellent reviews of your proposals.