One thing that frustrates me is how often researchers seem to be giving over control of their research to others.
You don’t think about planning your research until a funding deadline looms.
You do that planning within the constraints of this particular grant. You are trying to figure out what makes a good 3-5 year proposal. Or whether you could propose something that would fit into that targeted funding opportunity.
You treat comments from previous unsuccessful applications as things you must do to secure funding.
You are not doing research to secure funding
You are attempting to secure funding to do research. Research that brought you into this profession in the first place.
Yes, you need to be flexible. You need to meet the specific guidelines for this particular grant competition. But there is flexible and there is that whiney ex: “I can be whoever you want me to be. Please don’t break up with me.”
This is one reason I stopped offering grant proposal development services.
Plan your research not your grant
What questions are you asking? Why are they important? How are you going to investigate them? How will you communicate your findings? To whom?
You should be asking these questions whether you need funding or not.
You can plan different scenarios
- the shoestring budget research project
- if I had $75k to spend
- if I had $200k
- if I worked with someone who…
Then you can figure out what relationships you need to build and what grants you can apply for to support those plans.
When a deadline is announced, you just need to pull out the specific project from your overall research plan.
A plan helps you capitalize on opportunities
There are funding competitions you don’t want to waste your time on. And others that are ideal for your research. Knowing what your research objectives are can help you decide where to expend your energy. Having clearly articulated answers to these questions also helps support staff in your institution help you better. If you ask the research office better (more specific) questions, you get better answers.
A plan also gives you criteria for saying yes to opportunities for collaboration, presentations, and publications. As a corollary it gives you criteria for saying no to things that look attractive but will detract from your research rather than advance it.
A plan that includes relationship building recognizes that it takes time to build strong relationships with potential collaborators and partners. Building those relationships often opens up opportunities you wouldn’t otherwise have. A proposal for a collaborative grant is a lot stronger if the collaborators have been working together for a while.