Is there room in a review for grantsmithing feedback?

Mar 29 2012 Published by under [Education&Careers]

I'm knee deep is preproposals right now. A bunch of them. They are funny documents and if anything is becoming apparent by reading many side by side, it's that those who can write concisely and get right to the point are doing themselves a service. While this is often true in a grant proposal, it is magnified when you are selling your project in 4 pages.

I am in the middle of a proposal now that was written by an early career PI. I think the science is decent, but the message is getting slowly strangled by convoluted sentences that average one parenthetical statement each. It is not an easy read. In fact, I would bet that this proposal will score lower than it would if it were just written for the proper audience - a group of scientist outside the field, judging on a tight timeline.

So, blogpeeps, is the grant review a "proper" place for critiquing the writing of the proposal? Having written, read and received >100 grant reviews for my own writing and that of many others (as a panelist, one can see all other reviews) I have never seen this done. Maybe it is laziness, maybe reviewers can't be bothered to wipe n00b ass or perhaps it is just Not The Way It Is Done.

What say thee?

11 responses so far

  • drugmonkey says:

    Tell them their "terribly convoluted writing" inadvertently conveys the impression that the PI has no clue how to write a proposal....

  • proflikesubstance says:

    I don't want to be a meanie.

  • CoR says:

    Yah, tell them. They need to hear it.

  • Hermitage says:

    If people are mean to me, I cannot accept their criticism because they are simply out to get me.



    99% of every proposal/grant-smithing workshop I've been too could be condensed to 'pls for the love of Christ make the shit easy to understand.' I don't know why it's not more of an emphasis in the feedback-giving process as well.

  • Lab Rockstar says:

    If it was my proposal, I would want you to tell me that my writing style is undermining my awesome science. The sooner they know, the better. If they don't realize you're trying to help them, that's their problem.

    Just don't make it personal, contrary to what DrugMonkey is suggesting. We can't all be awesome all the time.

    I think I'm gonna make a t-shirt with that slogan on it.

  • Ewan says:

    We gave such feedback on pre-proposals. In several cases it was likely the difference between being invited to submit full and not (in both directions, although usually downward) and we wanted to make that clear. Stuff like duplicated paragraphs, non-existent figures and so on were killers also.

  • Julian Frost says:

    Tell them. If you don't, the bad writing won't be fixed and their proposal could be cut, no matter how awesome the science..

  • proflikesubstance says:

    This preproposal is not making the cut for a full. I saw the other reviews and I think mine came off rather generous by comparison.

  • anon says:

    Yes! I was a recipient of such a review - it was pretty direct. The panel summary said that I needed to "re-craft" my whole proposal, which they felt suffered from ".. a grantsmithing issue which might be aided by input from senior colleagues." It was frustrating to read that, but they hit the nail on the head. My senior colleagues were of no use - I already had their input and it was apparently worthless. I turned to a consultant who really turned things around for me. I get it now, and I'm now also funded.

  • proflikesubstance says:

    Good to know. I will ensure it makes the summary.

  • [...] 20 2012: Prof-like Substance for “In writing, your audience matters” and “Is there room in a review for grantsmithing feedback?”, and Sylvia McClain for [...]

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