Let’s Talk Grants at #AMWA2018

By Meagan Ramsey posted 08-29-2018 10:44


Grant reviewers can be finicky. They expect well-written proposals that are easy to read, and they are annoyed when proposals do not meet these expectations—they are only human after all. Unfortunately, investigators who are submitting grant proposals don’t always consider things from the perspectives of their reviewers. And this can quickly result in yet another unfunded proposal, even after spending countless hours writing the proposal and planning a methodologically-rigorous project. This scenario is common; funding rates are low for agencies like the National Institutes of Health (NIH)—a primary funding agency for biomedical research. Many investigators are frustrated, lamenting the review process and the time they have wasted submitting unfunded proposals. They don’t realize they might be missing an important step that should occur during the writing process for every single grant submission.
Fortunately, medical editors can provide what many investigators are missing: a critical pre-submission review that ensures the proposal is clear, organized, compelling, and polished. Although most investigators understand the value of having a colleague in their research area review proposals to ensure the science is strong, they often underestimate the importance of non-science-oriented reviews, or they simply don’t know such editorial resources exist. 

The non-science-oriented review is critical because reviewers will be irritated when they are forced to wade through a poorly written proposal. They will be frustrated by a proposal that doesn’t flow well. They will not try to understand dense text and unclear information. They will roll their eyes at typos, bad grammar, and inconsistencies. As I said before, reviewers are only human. No matter how much we want to imagine the review process is entirely objective, reviewers are easily annoyed by these common issues that investigators tend to overlook. And these issues frequently cause reviewers to assign the proposal a worse score, even if the science is good.

Investigators need us! In their list of important writing tips, NIH even suggests that investigators have their grants edited. And who better to edit a grant than a medical editor—someone with a strong command of the written word, who has a background or interest in medicine and science, who can identify and fix poor flow and an unclear sentence in their sleep, and who knows how to provide actionable feedback that investigators will actually respond to.

To help you break into the grant editing field or sharpen your grant editing skills, I will be leading a Grant Editing Basics session at #AMWA2018. I will help you better understand the NIH grant review process, and we will discuss specific strategies you can enact to help a proposal appeal to reviewers. You will leave the session with knowledge of the common issues you can address in research grant proposals. We will also cover best practices for grant editing and editing processes. Although we will focus specifically on NIH when discussing the review process, the other strategies and best practices will be applicable to almost any grant!

There will be other grant-related sessions at the conference as well. Esteemed colleagues are presenting education sessions on dissecting the critical NIH specific aims page and making NIH biosketches work for you. I will also be leading a breakfast roundtable on Friday where we will discuss NIH grant mechanisms and resources for grant writers and editors. #AMWA2018 is the place to be to learn about grant editing careers, discuss strategies and best practices with fellow editors, and just generally enjoy the comradery that comes with being in a room of people who understand your professional passions and what you do.

I hope to see you in DC this November at the 2018 Medical Writing & Communication Conference! Please come say hello so we can chat about all things grants and editing.

Education Session: Grant Editing Basics: Appealing to Reviewers
Thursday, November 1, 2018, 2:00 - 3:30 PM

1 comment



09-05-2018 14:59

Sounds great Megan!  If regular writing requires empathy, writing for reviewers is way more so. Beyond the organizational stuff, a lot of my daily input to clients aims to cultivate their own sense of how to engage reviewers' interest, avoid boring them to death, & persuading.