How do you get your research funded when more than 80% of proposals don’t make the cut?

(Hint: it’s not what you think.)

Which would you rather read?

A generic triage rejection on your NIH Summary Statement:

“At the meeting, the more meritorious applications were discussed and given final impact scores; by concurrence of the full SRG, the remaining applications, including this application, were not discussed or scored.”

…or an enthusiastic YES that makes you say, “Hooray! Holy Sh*t…” (because now you have to do the work):

“Overall, the panel agreed that this was an impressive application from an exceptional group of investigators, and enthusiasm was extraordinarily high. Findings are expected to have a high impact on the field.” **

(**actual comments from my client’s Summary Statement)

No contest, right?

If you’ve ever sweated over a big grant proposal for months, only to have it rank juuuuust outside the pay line—you know how brutal that feels, especially when your career is at stake.

It’s rough out there. NIH and CIHR's success rates were under 20% for 2017 (and only slightly better for 2018). These competitions are fierce. And it’s been like that for years. 

And it’s not like writing grants is something you can just ignore…it’s pretty much the basis of your career. It’s how you get tenure.

So…no presh.

Imagine what it would be like to be able to focus on your research for a while, instead of churning out a bunch of applications at the last minute and hoping for the best (but having no idea what’ll stick).

Imagine how great it would feel to know that you’re meeting your requirements for tenure—no problem—because you’ve won the operating funding you need.

What a relief, right?

So…how do you get your research funded? 

I mean, aside from having a brilliant research approach? (Which you do, of course. But good study design, strong preliminary data, and expert co-investigators are just what get you in the door. You need to knock their socks off if you want to win the big bucks.) 

But…how do you do that?

You write a barn burner of a grant proposal. 

You write with a buckle-your-seatbelts attitude—and you back it up with brains. 

You write a clear, compelling, unforgettable grant proposal. Sounds weird (and impossible), I get it. But THAT’s how you get funded. I know, because I’ve done it over and over again with colleagues and clients. Since 2016 I’ve helped my clients win more than $13.5 Million in operating funds doing just that.

Listen: great writing won’t save a mediocre idea. But that’s not what we’re talking about, is it? If you want to make sure your genius idea gets funded, you absolutely can use great writing to dress it up.

Even a rock-solid study design will get a big ol’ MEH from reviewers if it’s boring. Or poorly explained. Or so jammed on to the page that your reviewer goes cross-eyed just looking at it.

There are plenty of techniques you can use to jazz up your proposal. (And not in a rolling-a-turd-in-glitter kinda way…that doesn’t work.)

The techniques aren’t rocket science…but they really do work. The problem is that nobody really teaches this stuff to researchers, so you probably never got any formal training on how to do it. (Don’t get me started on this…I find it absolutely appalling that this isn’t part of your graduate or early career training)

You know that getting funded in the next cycle could make your career, but your proposal isn’t good enough (YET).

Guess who can help you take your proposal from MEH to outstanding?

(You’re smart. You only get one guess.)


Don’t worry. I’m a serious person.

Don’t worry. I’m a serious person.

I’ve been advising health researchers on grant writing for more than a decade. I’ve helped them win many millions of dollars in grant funding ($13.5M and counting in the last 3 years), mostly in big competitions with success rates under 20%. I specialize in NIH R01 grants and CIHR Project Grants, both by working one-on-one as a consultant and editor, and as a grant writing instructor for programs and departments. 

I know how to make your proposal stand out to reviewers. I can either teach you how to do it, or do it for you.

Don't learn the hard way. Or…do? Whatever. You know all about trial and error. But if you want to save the trial and error for your research, think about getting help with your grant writing from someone who knows how to get you closer to the pot of money that everyone else is after.

Are you writing an NIH grant proposal in 2019?

Are you writing a CIHR project grant proposal in 2019?

I struggle with finding time to write my grant proposal while maintaining my clinical practice. My co-investigators are also busy clinician-researchers, and it’s hard to get a thorough review from them on a deadline. Sarah gave me the prompt feedback and big-picture editing I needed, while also keeping me organized and on track. It was so helpful to have a professional grant editor from outside of our field and outside of our research group look at the grant with fresh eyes and give constructive criticism. She recommended a major structural revision to my R01 proposal, which I was able to execute within 8 weeks. The end product was vastly improved.
— MD MPH FACS, Vanderbilt University (funded R01)

Hey! writing your R01 application doesn't have to feel like such a slog.

I made you a 90-Day NIH R01 Planning Blueprint to take some of the stress out of writing your next R01 application. Sign up to map out exactly what to do to write an outstanding proposal—and when to do it.