I am just starting my second year as a research fellow at the University of Glasgow, UK. Most of my first year — especially the time spent in lockdown — was devoted to writing grant applications, with a focus on those aimed at early-career researchers (ECRs).
These grants are usually for small amounts (less than £20,000, or US$27,800) but tend to be extremely competitive, with hundreds of applications and a success rate lower than 10%. This seems strange when compared with the multimillion-pound grants my line manager is applying for, which have maybe 20–30 applicants and a success rate of around 20%.
During 2020, I applied for two fellowships, three small grants aimed at ECRs and one medium-sized grant. All were rejected. Rejection is disappointing, especially when so much effort and time has been invested, but it is part of scientific life. There were better candidates with better applications, and the only thing I can do is to improve and try again.
But my problem lies with ‘trying again’. Of those six applications, I received feedback for only one….