Saturday, September 30, 2006

Grant Writing Workshop, final thoughts

Here are the last of my thoughts about the Grant Writing Workshop...very random 'cause I was getting tired.

"The black hole of need" is a phrase that Dr. Morrison used to describe the person who has no idea about what they want to do and wants hand holding through the whole process (or, in the case of students, wants you to do the project or the searching or their homework for them) and why you should not give the appearance of neediness when contacting a program officer to discuss your project.


Chris and I were talking about how the process presented in the workshop today, the formula Dr. Morrison provided, would be useful for all sorts of projects that require organization and communication to non-experts in a field, for instance communicating a dissertation topic. That made me feel good because I think I'’ve gotten to the point where I've been feeling lately that I've reached that point. I can explain my potential dissertation topic in a couple of sentences in non-technical language.


Little known fact about grant application reviewers: reviewers are critically reviewed on their ability to review. This means that there is the expectation that a reviewer will find something wrong with the application. One of the places that reviewers find something wrong is in the section of the narrative of an application that addresses anticipated problems with the research project and how they will be addressed. Another place is in the details or the ability of the author of the application to follow the rules for the application e.g. margin size, font size, length, format, etc. Moral: read the directions! A third place that reviewers like to find fault is in the budget section where the applicant has not adequately justified the items in your budget. Dr. Morrison suggested that we include some budget lines that we donÂ’t mind being cut in order to allow for the reviewersÂ’ need to cut something.


This bit threw me off a bit: “try to cite contributions of possible reviewers”. He said it earlier but those exact words appear in one of Dr. Morrison's slides. The purpose was straightforward, to massage the egos of potential reviewers or to avoid putting them off your project if you donÂ’t cite their work. Being interested in scholarly communication including the ways it can be operationalized and measured, I immediately wondered about what impact of doing this would have on the citation counts of authors and what weight those citations are given by promotion and tenure committees. (How) are they taken into account by citation counters like ISI? My second thought was about the discussions we had in my Research Ethics class last spring about whether or not citing peopleÂ’s work in order to curry favor with them was ethically questionable. I read the American Counseling AssociationÂ’s Code of Ethics recently (my qualitative research class is in the Counseling & Educational Psychology Department) and they have a section that says "“Counselors must give appropriate credit to those who have contributed to research" ... does this practice constitute “appropriate credit?


Reviewers expect a grant application to include evidence of preliminary results or pilot studies even though they are not typically required to be included (according to application directions).


Tips on titles: write down five or eight different titles for your project and then ask colleagues to select one. According to Dr. Morrison, almost everyone will choose the same title.


This was an excellent workshop in terms of de-mystifying the grant application process and, I fear, in terms of communicating the practical real-world tips for writing successful grants (even though, as you can plainly see, that part of it offended my sensitive, naive belief in ethics).

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