Writing good grants
So I just spent the last week polishing off two proposals, which led me to think about a few things. When your proposal is reviewed you really want the reviewers to concentrate on the idea being proposed, not the writing, or the skill (or lack thereof) of the investigators, or the methods (although these are important it should be evident that you know what you are doing and how to proceed). Many of these problems can be addressed by learning good proposal writing. I have talked about this before, but thought I might revisit this topic.
One trick I have learned to conserve space is that for both NIH and NSF grants you get a project summary (or summary of aims). Use this as an intro to your grant and cut the intro section altogether (i.e., start with background and significance). Usually the material in the first paragraph of the project summary and the intro are pretty much the same anyway and this gives you an extra page.
When writing the background try to cite everyone that is relevant to the field, remembering that they could be a reviewer, and be polite. Don't say your technology is better than someone else's unless you are pretty sure that almost any independent reviewer would agree with you. Instead it could be an alternative or complementary technology. Also, many reviewers are not in your field so include enough background that any scientist in your -ology could understand what is proposed.
In the preliminary data section include a paragraph that reads... Dr. X has X years of experience with X including X publications in journals like really important journal and even more important journal. Then show the data that is most relevant to your project.
Finally, in the aims section, remember that your grant has an X year duration and whatever you propose should be likely to be completed in that time frame by the number of individuals that you propose to fund. So saying that you are going to invent a spaceship, travel to the moon, collect moon rocks, and analyze them with one student in 3 years is pretty unlikely. This is the major factor that separates more experienced grant writers from novices. (and students from PIs....see candidacy exam as evidence). Also, be very clear in your methodologies, cite as many papers as you can....we are going to do X following the method of Smith et al. This shows that you are familiar with the field and reduces the risk of experimental failure. i.e., I am following established methods.
Well....that's all for now. I am busy pushing out papers and getting my tenure package ready. I am going up early so wish me luck.