Posted in Ethics, PhD life, Presentations quality
Writing grant proposals is a fact of live for every group leader. This writing can be quite time consuming. Your chance of success depends on a number of factors. The factor I want to discuss here is the originality and the detail of the proposal .
Pursuing a new idea is what makes the life of a scientist fascinating and challenging. But also demanding. Just continuing one’s research on old ideas is much easier. But a new idea is very difficult to come by. Continuation of old stuff is much easier. Grant organizations want new ideas. Supporting continuation is in our society never appreciated. ( Unless it is Scottish whisky.) So even when you are just going to do the same research you have to package it in the form of a new idea.
Writing a proposal means also overcoming the following catch 22. If you suggest something totally new the reviewers will comment that you have no experience in this new subject so the chances of failure are high. Even if the the whole grant system was specially meant for high risk ideas, the reviewers will still hold it against you. One reason being that they never have the time to read the proposal review guidelines. And if you propose something that is not new, the chances of success for your research to succeed are very high . But now the reviewers will complain that it is not new.
Solving the catch 22
The solution of this catch 22 is that you make clear in the proposal that the proposed research is indeed new but that your passed performance is very good and indeed involves numerous occasions where you started, and successfully completed a whole new subject.
Help, there is another catch 22
So you have decided to write a proposal with some brand new ideas, very likely immature and in need of improvement. My problem is that I have only a few new ideas and to survive in science I need to cherish and develop them. But I also need those grants to survive. To get this proposal granted I have to lay out this idea in great detail. Who will read the proposal? In my country typically three to four anonymous international colleagues who work in the same field as I do. And who are also desperately in need of new ideas. In addition to the reviewers a larger number of people, sitting in some kind of jury, have the chance to read the proposal.
I know I am paranoia, but I do not trust all reviewers (including myself). After some time everybody who is developing his own new ideas will forget the important initial stimulating stuff found in somebody else’s the proposal. Or even worse, will start research in the same direction, sometimes not even realizing where the original idea came from.
Anyway I am to write a new grant proposal. Deadline in three weeks from now. And again I am confronted with this catch 22. I do not know how to solve it. There ain’t much time left.