How to write a killer grant application

I have been wandering around the office looking smug at people today, and was even, at one point, quite tempted to do a little victory dance. Why was that, you say? Ah, I’m glad you asked!

This was because Ariel from the Wellcome Trust emailed me to ask if they could use our grant application in a workshop they are running, as an example of a good application. Yay, I rock!

I’m pretty flabberghasted though, as this was the first grant application I’ve ever written, I didn’t expect it to be an exemplar of the form. I thought there was some secret knowledge that you needed years of practise to get and that mine was going to be lamentably amateurish. But maybe that’s part of why it turned out well?

I remember once at University missing the sessions where an important assignment was set, and the deadline for handing it in. Obviously then I couldn’t ask questions about what we were expected to do, etc. I ended up staying up all night for two nights running, working my **** off on it, thinking I was just going to scrape a pass.

Then when I got it back I discovered I’d got the highest mark in the year (for the first and last time). I’d set myself a much higher standard than we actually needed to achieve…

I hasten to add I’m not saying I should have put in any old rubbish to Wellcome. But I just mean I really did try hard on that application.

I’d done lots of development for the project. I went to Wellcome’s grant application workshop (which was excellent and I really recommend them). I talked to the lovely Tom Ziessen who runs the People Award scheme about what they wanted, etc. I read all of Wellcome’s stuff about their schemes and the application process. And I wrote and re-wrote the application and got it checked by three other people.

Shane says I should mention him at this point. OK, so Shane was one of the people who checked the application and made comments. He was really very helpful. No, honestly.

So my top tips for grant applications (so far, based on one successful…)

  1. Try really, really hard
  2. Really want to do it
  3. Put some jokes in
  4. Apply to Wellcome

I realise no. 4 sounds sickeningly sycophantic, but Wellcome were so helpful and approachable. I love them. And yes, obviously I’m not likely to get all negative on a work blog. But that doesn’t mean I’m not honest. I just don’t mention people I don’t like. (Although if it was in any way relevant I might make an exception for First Great Western…)

Other progress so far, to keep you all informed

I’ve started in earnest trying to get the word out to teachers. So far Famelab, Planet Science and upd8 have put something in their newsletters. I’ve also written to the TES, ASE and to all the citizenship teachers we have details for from I’m a Councillor 2007 (hopefully their word-of-mouth to science colleagues will be particularly effective). Any ideas of other avenues to try gratefully received!

So far I’ve had over 30 teachers express an interest, which is a great response. The teachers sound very positive about the event. Loads of teachers want to use the event with their year 9s – there does seem to be a real need for something to do with them after SATs. But we still have plenty of space in the pilot, especially for AS/A level groups.

If you are, or know of, a science teacher who might want to get involved in the event with their key stage 5 class, then please get in touch!

We’ve also heard from about a dozen scientists, which is also great, but we want to make sure we have a real range of scientists. And people whose research raises interesting issues. I’ll get writing to various societies, universities, etc in a few weeks when the teacher pack development is further along.

But in the meantime, please also get in touch if you are a scientist who’d be interested in discussing your work with young people and testing out an innovative new approach to science dialogue. Or just if you want to win £500…

Posted on March 6, 2008 by admin in Project News, Science Engagement. Tagged , , , , , , . Comments Off on How to write a killer grant application