As a Research Office or a Dean’s office, your goal is to help improve the research profile, and the research income, of your institution. You do a great job but you have a busy office. You can’t give detailed personal help to every single applicant.
Furthermore, some of them don’t seem to value your advice. Not because it isn’t good, but because a bunch of cultural and structural perceptions about your part in (cue ominous voice) “the administration” get in the way.
I can help you help them.
I’ve been helping offices like yours help researchers with SSHRC grant applications since the summer of 2005. Along the way I’ve learned a few things.
- Researchers submit better proposals.
- Researchers get excited about their research. Their intrinsic motivation to apply for grants and do research increases.
- Researchers value your office more because you get me to help them. They come to you sooner. They tell their colleagues to talk to you.
- One RO even told me that researchers got their applications to her before the internal deadline.
However, I have also learned that simply reviewing and commenting on a draft application, fairly close to the deadline, doesn’t offer the best value. I can only do so much at that point. The researchers who need the most help are most likely to be frustrated and disappointed with what can be done at this stage.
I can’t help the researchers that contact your office a week before the deadline but I can help you provide support to researchers earlier in the process. When researchers know my services might be available, they come to you early to get access to them. Offering my support also gives you a really good reason to contact them way before the agency deadline.
Coaching Researchers through the process of Grant Proposal Development
I am not an editor or a grant writer. I am a coach.
No one writes an excellent proposal at the last minute. I provide a structure for the process of putting together the proposal that fits into the researcher’s demanding workload and allows time for revisions.
Instead of working madly on the proposal to the exclusion of all else in the weeks before the deadline, we spread the preparation out. It is less disruptive to their other work and a better proposal results. There is also time to engage research assistants to help out, giving students valuable insight into the granting process. For Partnership grants, this timeline also enables more collaboration during the proposal stage which will set a firmer foundation for a successful project.
We start with a 1-hour conversation (by phone or Skype).
I help the researcher clarify their research goals and articulate the significance of their proposed project. I help them match the scope of their plans to the funder guidelines. I can also help those who do health research figure out which parts of their program, if any, are eligible for SSHRC funding and how to approach a SSHRC application.
This conversation can also be used for long-term planning. Perhaps a researcher doesn’t think they are quite ready to apply for a grant. I can help them evaluate their readiness and, crucially, figure out how to get ready. I can turn what seems like an endless deferral into a medium-term goal to apply in a specific year.
If they are ready to apply to the next competition
I offer further support throughout the process of putting together a strong application. The benefits to the researcher of working with me are:
- a solid proposal
- no guesswork
- no overwhelm
- no panic
- no pulling your hair out
I give them detailed guidance on the content of the various narrative sections of the proposal: the detailed description, training plan, description of team, expected outcomes summary, knowledge mobilization plan, and statement of alignment with priority areas. I provide general guidance on the budget and how the whole application is used in different parts of the process by SSHRC program officers and adjudication committees.
I also provide a structure for completing the application that fits into their workload. I have a spreadsheet they can use to track the various tasks and I provide interim deadlines and regular feedback on each section as they write it.
I am not a detail person. I recommend that the researcher or your office find complementary support for final editing and proofreading, as well as the details of the budget preparation, forms, etc.
How much will it cost?
The initial 1-hour telephone coaching session is $225 + HST/GST. Different grant programs have different requirements. Further support can be quoted following that session depending on the needs of the particular researcher.
Who I can help
If you look at a proposal and think “But where’s the science?”, I’m your gal. My background is in the humanities and social sciences. I am particularly good at helping those researchers whose proposals don’t look much like the kind of proposals scientists write — philosophers, literary scholars, historians, qualitative researchers, theorists…
If you are baffled as to what a particular researcher is trying to do or why it’s important, or if you think that their draft doesn’t really communicate those two things, I can help. My strengths are in helping researchers articulate their objectives and in explaining how the process works so that they understand what level of detail needs to be in the various sections of the proposal.
If you have social science and humanities scholars who are feeling frustrated and confused about the recent tightening of the rules about eligibility for SSHRC and CIHR, I can help them figure out how their program of research relates to the mandates of the 2 councils, what parts of it are likely to be eligible for which council, and how to frame their proposals to ensure that they don’t have to take a lot of time to explain their eligibility to program officers and committee members. I won’t help researchers get around the policy. I will help them understand it better and figure out how to thrive given that policy environment.
I can also help those who seem to be resistant to applying. I don’t believe that every scholar needs grant support to pursue their scholarship. However, I know that there are many researchers who lower their ambitions to avoid the prospect of applying. I can help sort that out with an individual researcher with the goal of at least increasing their research productivity and impact and perhaps helping them set a medium-term goal to apply for funding.
Talks & Workshops
In 2013, I am available for a limited number of on-campus visits to inspire your researchers. My day rate is $2500 (plus applicable taxes and expenses).
I offer a general workshop on grants and a specific workshop addressing knowledge mobilization and wider impact.
You can combine a presentation/workshop with a number of in-person 1-hour consultations as described above. Some researchers really prefer to meet face-to-face rather than by telephone. These would be billed as per telephone meetings and the day rate adjusted accordingly. Contact me to discuss details.
If your graduate studies office is wondering how to help PhD students with career choices, I would also gladly add an extra day to offer a full-day in-person version of the Conscious Careers course.