Learn all that you can about grant mechanisms targeted to undergraduate serving institutions such as:
NIH - R15 (AREA) grants
NSF - RUI grants
Both NIH and NSF also have special grant programs for minority-serving institutions.
Research grants are the most challenging grants to get at small institutions. Your most difficult task will be to convince reviewers that you can do the work
Be a PI or co-PI on an infrastructure or student support grant
Being a PI on a grant gives credibility & a track record and
invitations to serve as a reviewer (helps you write better applications)
Program funds can subsidize your research in important ways
- travel to professional meetings
- buying supplies to support student research
- supporting student lab workers
- supporting administrative assistance
Find ways to accumulate preliminary data without funding.
- Make your research part of an advanced lab course
- Use leftovers from lab courses (equipment 0r
- Use leftovers from funded colleagues
- Host/mentor students in research programs
- Create a federal work-study job in your lab
- Be relentless in seeking professional development
funds from internal sources
Focus on developing interesting hypotheses and a strong experimental plan that fits your repertoire of techniques
- Make sure that your research investigates important
- At small institutions the techniques & methodologies that are
available are limited. Design your hypotheses so that the techniques
you have access to are the best experimental approach to test them.
- Design experiments so that the results distinguish between different
hypotheses. Focus on designing experiments such that getting one
result is incompatible with one hypothesis, while getting the opposite result is incompatible with the alternative hypothesis.
It is important to include "potential pitfalls and alternative approaches" that are substantive and not simply problems with techniques.
Reviewers know that frequently experiments don't work,
and our hypotheses turn out to be wrong.
Your proposal needs to show that you know that too.
To craft a strong "potential pitfalls" section, start by
asking your self the following questions:
1. What kind of results would cause me to abandon
this experimental approach?
2. What kind of results would cause me to discard
3. If I got those kinds of results, what would I do next?
Every project has some risk. You need to show that if things don't work out you will still be able to use the grant funds to advance the science.
Get a mentor or colleague with grant writing experience to read your grant proposal
The most helpful reader is someone who has been successful at getting their research funded by the same program or agency where you are applying.
You need someone who will go through your proposal line-by-line. If there isn't anyone at your institution who can do that, look elsewhere.
Offer to take your colleagues out to lunch if they will read your proposal.