Grant applications: getting help when it matters most

Our client requested our participation in the Faculty grants readership scheme designed to provide independent reviews of grant applications directed to various Commonwealth funding mechanisms.  The purpose of this scheme was to improve structural issues e.g. style, clarity, conciseness, readability, and strategic issues e.g. novelty, significance, the flow of arguments, and appropriateness for the given scheme. Comments on the science were also invited in the review process. Between 9th January and 10th March 2017, we reviewed a wide range of applications, and provided feedback, including suggestions for reducing ‘text heavy’ sections, re-writing summaries to the level of the lay person, cutting back on preliminary data and background that was in excess of 5 pages, and a very common problem of not really ‘selling’ a very exciting and scientifically sound project. Our aim was to respond with our edits within 1-2 business days, as many researchers understand the stress of meeting submission deadlines. Among the grants we reviewed, two Early Career Fellowship (Australia) applications in particular stood out, in that although they were structurally well written, there were strategic issues that needed to be addressed. In our feedback to the grants manager, we clarified our concerns in the body of our email reply, in addition to various comments for improvement included in the text. We were excited to find that both applications were successfully funded, and that overall our client’s institution scored well above the national average of successfully funded grants. While we do not attribute these successes solely to our input, our edits and suggestions for improvement were relevant and constructive, and contributed to their success, as evidenced by positive responses we received, such as “That’s the feedback I needed”; “That was super fast! Thank you so much!”; “These comments are incredibly useful, I am very grateful- please pass on my thanks to the reader!”; “Thanks. This is very helpful.”  

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