Intro to grant-writing resources and careers

3/8/2018 12:54:22 PM

One of the most critical skills needed for a successful career in science is grant writing. For academics, being a proficient grant writer is necessary for survival. Additionally, if you do any type of nonprofit or outreach work, you’ll likely be involved with grants because many nonprofits live or die based on grant funding. It’s also a legitimate career track, plus grant consulting also makes a good side gig (because, hey, everybody needs money but may not have the time or like to write). Unfortunately, this skill may not be taught in school, and, even then, experience is the best way to master. If you want to do something beneficial for your future career, seriously take the time to do some grant-writing training. This week’s post suggests some ways to get experience and training, along with an introduction to career paths in this area.     

How to get experience.

  • Talk to your PI and see if you can help with preparing or editing a grant. It also may be possible to be listed as a co-PI depending on your professional level, institutional policies and funding agency guidelines. At the very least, ask to see the grant that you are funded on and review how it’s written and structured (which happens to be a good idea anyway to know what your lab has been funded to do).  
  • Whenever possible, apply for any grants and fellowships that you are eligible for (e.g., summer research grants, postdoctoral fellowships). This is great experience and shows your ability to secure funding. For example, the ASBMB offers a number of scholarships and awards, plus a list of other potential programs on its website. I’ll follow up with more resources on where to find related funding opportunities in a future post.  
  • Reach out to local nonprofits, school districts, etc. to offer assistance with funding research and grant applications (believe me, they always need help). Or maybe better yet, if you are involved in science outreach or other volunteer work, look for grants that will support your current projects and apply.   
  • Another very useful activity is reviewing grants to understand the mindset of a reviewer and see examples of well-structured proposals. Most federal agency websites include reviewer information that outlines qualifications required and how to submit your name to the peer-reviewer database. Based on my experience in securing grant reviewers, I also suggest keeping an updated LinkedIn profile and professional website so that people easily can find you. If you’re not quite eligible to review for these types of grants yet based on education level or experience, see if you can join a committee through a professional society to review scholarship and award applications. Also a number of nonprofits need help reviewing grants for outreach projects. I have found such opportunities by following nonprofits on Twitter and responding to requests for reviewers.  

Where to find training and resources.  

  • Check on grant-writing workshops available through your university. One tip I’ve learned is that the offices of sponsored programs and research often put on workshops that anyone can attend. These workshops include information on funding trends, federal-agency granting mechanisms and opportunities to meet with these agencies’ program managers. And if your school has more than one campus, be sure to see what is offered throughout the university system. Many research offices also post great resources on their websites. For example, one online resource that’s been helpful for me is the University of Tennessee–Knoxville Grantseeker's Toolkit.  
  • Professional-science societies often offer online courses and in-person grant-writing workshops to their members. Check out the websites of the organizations you belong to for opportunities. For example, the ASBMB hosts the Interactive Mentoring Activities for Grantsmanship Enhancement workshop, which will be held this June in Washington, D.C. It is open to assistant professors and postdoctoral scientists who are preparing to transition into independent faculty positions. Applications are due by April 13.  
  • Most federal agencies that administer grants provide valuable online training resources and tutorials. Another useful resource provided by, the clearinghouse for federal grants, is the Grant Learning Center, which provides information on the granting process, key terminology and more.  
  • Don’t limit yourself to thinking only about federal grants. There are lots of nonprofits and foundations highly engaged in the research space that offer grants, fellowships, etc. Find resources to stay updated on funding news in the foundation world. For example, the Foundation Center is a good source of information on funding news and training resources via the Philanthropy News Digest and  

Weekly jobs roundup.

And if you find yourself totally nerding out on grant writing, you may be interested to know there are viable career paths in research and proposal development, across the academic, industry and nonprofit sectors. A couple of organizations to check out for more information are the National Organization of Research Development Professionals and Association of Proposal Management Professionals. These websites have useful training resources and free job boards. Here’s a listing of some entry-level positions that I recently have seen posted.  

  • Purdue University in Lafayette, Ind., is hiring a proposal coordinator to work with faculty members across campus on developing research proposals. Minimum qualifications include a bachelor’s degree and four years of general writing experience. No application deadline is provided.  
  • The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in Little Rock, Ark., is recruiting an editor to join the science-communications group. The team member will edit technical documents (e.g., grant applications, manuscripts and reports) for faculty in the biomedical, behavioral and public-health fields. Minimum qualifications include a bachelor’s or master’s degree and five or three years of scientific writing/editing experience, respectively. The application deadline is March 15.  
  • The Center for Interdisciplinary Research in Women's Health at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, Texas, is seeking a science writer and editor to assist with grant proposals and manuscript submissions. Minimum qualifications include a bachelor’s degree (master’s preferred) and four years of experience, with a preference for an applicant with a clinical science background. No application deadline is provided.  
  • The Department of Pediatrics at Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio, is looking for a part-time scientific medical writer to assist physician groups with a variety of communication products, including grants and manuscripts. The writer also will lead a medical-writing program for staff and fellows. Minimum qualifications include a bachelor’s degree (master’s or Ph.D. preferred) and five years of relevant experience. No application deadline is provided.  
  • The Department of Population Health within the NYU School of Medicine/NYU Langone medical center is hiring a grant specialist to assist faculty with the preparation of grant proposals. Minimum qualifications include a bachelor’s degree and two to three years of related experience. No application deadline is provided.

  • The EMMES Corporation, a biomedical contract research organization, is seeking a proposal specialist for its Rockville or Frederick, Md., location. The specialist will coordinate the proposal process to bid on projects from government, commercial and nonprofit funding sources. Minimum qualifications include a bachelor’s degree and five years of related experience. No application deadline is provided.  
Donna Kridelbaugh is the ASBMB careers blogger. Connect with her on Twitter (@science_mentor) or at her website (