Research Grant Writing Workshops

Scene from a Workshop

Workshops explain my approach to writing research-grant and research-fellowship applications and include exercises to develop skill. The approach is based on my own experience of winning funding and on my analysis of thousands of funding decisions in which I participated. The workshops teach my solution to the problem of writing the Case for Support, the document that determines whether or not you get funded.

My Approach

My approach draws on my experience as a science journalist. I have created a design for the Case for Support that ensures that it answers the two most important questions that every research funder considers when deciding whether or not to award a grant. Importantly, the design ensures that the Case for Support answers the questions in a way that will satisfy the three readership groups who influence the funding decision.

The funders’ two questions are:-

  1. Is the topic of the research important (to the funder)?
  2. Is the project likely to make substantial progress?

The three readership groups who influence the funding decision are:-

  • The referees; they are experts on the topic and have plenty of time to read the Case for Support. Their role in the decision is indirect: they write a report for the committee and recommend a score.
  • The presenting committee members; they probably know something about the topic and have about an hour to read the Case for Support. Their role in the decision is to explain your case for support to the other members of the committee and participate in the discussion and vote on your score.
  • The ordinary committee members; they probably know very little about the topic and have only a few minutes to read the Case for Support. They will act as presenting members for applications on other topics. Their role in the decision is to participate in the discussion and vote on your score.

Although the ordinary committee members know least and spend the least time on your application, they typically comprise 90% of the group who vote on your score.

These workshops are even more useful for senior academics than they are for early career researchers because my design for the Case for Support makes it possible to write multiple applications very efficiently. The Case for Support begins with a set of ten key sentences that answer the funders’ two questions, and then re-uses the key sentences as a framework to organise the evidence that supports the answers. Committee members find the answers just by reading the introduction; referees can find the detail that supports the answers by using the key sentences as signposts. It is easy to understand the principles of the approach but executing it is difficult and requires skill.

The workshop explains the approach, its rationale, and the specifications of a set of key sentences for a project grant. It discusses how to create key sentences to support other types of grant, such as fellowships.

The materials include:-

  • more than 20 short video lectures that cover all the topics in the popular face-to-face workshops I used to deliver,
  • extended text explaining the topics covered in the lectures, and
  • examples and exercises on the key skills.

This brief trailer gives a flavour of the workshop style.

Delivery

The workshop can be taken as a self-paced individual workshop, or as an interactive workshop, delivered to a group of up to 25 participants.

  •  In the self-paced individual workshops, each participant has access for a week to video lectures and learning materials, which they can cover at their own pace. The price for this is £25 per person.  Institutions can buy coupons for multiple person-weeks at a  discount of 10% for ten and 20% for a hundred. Individuals who want to save money by working through the material quickly can buy 24 hours access for £10, and those who want to work more slowly can buy 28 days access for £75. 
  • In the interactive workshops, up to 25 participants work to develop the skill of writing key sentences. The workshop begins with a live introduction to the problem with zoom (up to 2 hours on day 1), in which they get set the task of writing a set of key sentences. This session is recorded so that participants who miss the session can catch up and institutions can re-use the introduction for internal workshops. Participants have access to all the materials in the on-line workshop for a week and they get  feedback sessions during the week – ideally two or three days after the introductory session. Cost depends on the number of feedback sessions. A 15-minute feedback session costs £125 and a workshop with 12×15 minute feedback sessions costs £2000. Not all participants want to write key sentences, so it makes sense to plan a workshop with more attendees than feedback sessions. Interactive workshops can also be tailored longer feedback sessions, group feedback sessions, a group Q&A session, or for participants to work on a full Case for Support rather than just the key sentences.

Signup

Individuals can sign up for the on-line workshop here and pay with a coupon or credit card. Institutions should use the contact form to enquire about arranging an interactive workshop or to enquire about purchasing a coupon for access to the on-line workshop for a group.

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