Writing a research proposal is a time-consuming but priceless opportunity to develop research ideas, build critical-thinking skills and develop communications strategies — not to mention obtaining funding. As research-development strategists, we coach both clinical and basic-science researchers in the art of writing compelling proposals. Grant writers often ask whether we have examples of successful proposals that we can share. Yet few early-career grant writers know how to turn their access to these proposals into a competitive edge.
Proposal libraries are collections of proposals, both funded and unfunded, that were previously submitted for consideration by funding agencies. We have developed such a library with proposals submitted to the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) and other foundations, including applications for large project grants, research grants, career-development awards and fellowships. Our proposals are not anonymized; instead, we encourage grant writers to provide only what they feel comfortable sharing. We have examples of one-page Specific Aims and Research Strategies documents, as well as boilerplate documents and full proposals. In some cases, reviewers’ comments are included and provide insights into how the application was received.
Proposals in our library are accessed using a cloud-based content-management platform and available read-only, meaning that they cannot be downloaded. We also refer grant writers to a repository called Open Grants. To build your own proposal library, ask your peers or mentors whether they would be willing to share their proposals with you. Many funders publish lists of people who’ve been awarded grants, so reaching out to previous winners is a good way to start. Ask for a 20-minute meeting to chat about their application experience, then enquire about their willingness to share their proposal.
But how can you transform such a library into a meaningful grant-writing aid? Our three-step approach can help.
Review the steps on the Nature Careers Website: https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-022-02958-4
More grant writing resources from Dementia Researcher: https://www.dementiaresearcher.nihr.ac.uk/tag/grant-writing/