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Grant writing is not a lottery - it's a sport!

Updated: Dec 12, 2018

One of the most widely perpetuated myths in academia is the idea that grant funding is a lottery.


You can appreciate where this idea comes from. Each year you dedicate hundreds of hours writing grants that get rejected with reviewer comments that make no sense. Sometimes you are encouraged to re-submit but only to get re-rejected despite a better CV and stronger track record. You see no pattern behind the madness other than that reviewers are stupid. Dedication turns to despondency. Before you know it you decide someone has rigged the system and or the process is a lottery.


One of the most challenging things I face as a coach is helping my students see that grant funding is not a lottery. Outcomes only appear to be governed by chance for those who are unclear about how the game works. It is no different from playing any game. If you don’t understand the rules, and have no tactics or skills, outcomes will appear random. But if you understand the rules, writing grants becomes a sport where you can have fun and win big.


Another pernicious myth is that funding success rates are low. Arguably they are when only 6-10 applications are funded for every 100 submitted. But that ratio is a misleading gauge of the competition. It assumes the denominator consists of 100 high-quality submissions. In reality only a small fraction (I estimate around 15-20%) are real contenders. Most are poorly written grants that do nothing more than create noise in the system.


Rather than directing your energy into complaining about how the system is broken, spend it elevating your knowledge and skills. Become the grant sniper that sinks the target with one shot, not the person behind the chain gun spraying the field hoping something hits.


Dr Shieak Tzeng, R&D Canvas


#grants #fulfilment #strategy #decisionmaking

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