PI Grant Support Survey: Does your institution provide grant experts?

August 12, 2009

A recent post in Uncertain Chad’s series on alternative careers caught the eyes of your hardworking blogstaff over here at DrugMonkey. One Julie Myers-Irvin describes her job as:

I work at the University of Pittsburgh as a “Scientist Administrator” (a terribly nondescript title that I will expand upon). My office offers services to PIs to enhance and assist researchers with their research programs. My main task is to read and critique grant applications before they are submitted to funding agencies (mostly NIH but also some foundations). Basically, I act like a reviewer. I review grants for scientific content as well as do general copy editing of applications for PIs (especially those for whom English is not their native language). I also provide tips on general grantsmanship advice and try to help PIs craft the most competitive grant application possible. I help PIs find funding opportunities and resources they need to do their research.

As our more astute PI readers know, the most excellent Medical Writing Editing & Grantsmanship blog is authored by someone in a very similar job category.
My institution has nothing that approaches this type of support and, I can tell you, we would benefit from having it.
How about you, DearReader? What is the institutional support for grant writing, opportunity finding, etc like in your neck of the science woods?

No Responses Yet to “PI Grant Support Survey: Does your institution provide grant experts?”

  1. JohnV Says:

    We have a whole “sponsored projects” group here that assists in the financial end of grant/contract writing and actually handles the final submission (budget meetings with them are good times). They don’t do a scientific critique, but that’s theoretically handled elsewhere in the institution.
    The sponsored projects group passes along funding notices that they might think are of interest to us as a whole, but don’t do it for individual PIs.
    We also have a person/couple who investigate private philanthropy funding opportunities.


  2. Orac Says:

    I have nothing like that at my institution. Granted, our budget support is much better than it was where I used to work (where it was nonexistent) and our grant people will actually put together much of the budget based on what we tell them, but, even so, there’s still zero help in putting the actual scientific section together.


  3. Eric Lund Says:

    We nominally have a Sponsored Projects Office, but that’s mainly for administering grants (they do sometimes provide a heads-up about grant opportunities). Other staff help with information about budgets. Scientifically speaking, we’re on our own.


  4. pinus Says:

    I don’t believe we have anything like that, it would be really helpful. However, they are ‘trimming the fat’ on campus…so I don’t see that hire happening anytime soon. bummer.
    My grants person for my department is really awesome at handling all of the non-science ‘stuff’. So that is nice.


  5. This is more or less my job too. I’ve never met two people in this field with the same job description (I just call it grant wrangling), and everyone seems to have a differerent kind of appointment too.
    My salary is provided by a specific tumour group, and I assist with all grants in my institution that focus on that tumour type (although in practice about 70% of my time is taken up by one PI). This encompasses everything from basic research to clinical trials, and my role varies depending on the grant and on the PI – everything from writing whole sections and shaping the actual project, to just editing and proofreading. The one common component is handling the sign-off and submission process, which no PI ever seems to want to do, for some reason.
    I also edit/proof/format manuscripts, apply for ethics certificates, handle MTAs and IP disclosures, manage funded projects, etc.


  6. Arlenna Says:

    We have a couple of resources like that:
    1. our departmental budget/formatting support
    2. more comprehensive writing/conceiving/collaboration-finding support through a big institute-type-thing when you work with and budget for using their facilities
    3. the main vice president for research office has successful proposals donated by people on campus, and they send out info on opportunities and make themselves available for consultations on this stuff including offering help with collaborative connections, too
    So far I’ve found it pretty helpful, the departmental budget support is a godsend. I would have major problems without them.


  7. whimple Says:

    We occasionally have a person to do simple editing and formating, and we also have the nominal office of sponsored projects to do the actual grant submitting and administration. In short, we don’t have anything that would actually be genuinely useful. Maybe I can convince the high-up muckimucks to recruit writedit away from BICO? 🙂


  8. We have excellent support for preparation of the administrative and budget components of our grant applications, but no one whose job description involves assisting with the narrative sections.


  9. Odyssey Says:

    We also don’t have anyone fitting that job description. I always wonder how they’re paid – I could be wrong, but I was under the impression you couldn’t use Federal funding for such purposes. I assume that would include indirects.


  10. drdrA Says:

    We have an entire office that does this. They teach workshops on grant writing, and they work with individual investigators. I’ve never used them though- so I can’t say how good they are. (I think they are called ‘Proposal Development’ or some such)


  11. We have an institue and they are teh r0xx0rz!


  12. juniorprof Says:

    We have an office that does this too, in fact we have two, one on the undergrad campus across the street and another at the med school. One office is NSFcentric and the other NIHcentric. I use the budget support but not development, although I have gone to workshops. For grant development our department holds meetings where we bounce ideas off each other and I find this quite helpful.


  13. Writedit Says:

    This would be writedit’s colleague, whom writedit help train before escaping the office of Scientist Administrators. And yes, whimple, writedit is keeping an eye on the market to relocate … thinking New England or Colorado-ish or Pacific Northwest. Think mountains and/or water, so upper Midwest also not out of the question either. 😉


  14. expat postdoc Says:

    We have NIH money here, but we’re a foreign institution so everything is left up to the individual PIs 😦


  15. crystaldoc Says:

    Our research admin office does the budget and face page, but that is it. There is another 2-person office that offers writing support (from writers, not scientists). I hear they are pretty good at formatting 27 pages down to 25 and the like. They are heavily subscribed mostly by MDs with clinical responsibilities who otherwise could never manage to get a grant together. Most PhD full-time research PIs seem to prefer to do it themselves. Possibly because the institution already has a 10-day-in-advance internal deadline, and the writing office requires your text an additional week in advance.


  16. Our “grants office” basically checks our budgets to make sure we can add correctly, ensures that we haven’t done anything worng with our numbers (in terms of what gets charged O/H, etc.) and then hits the submit button. We have no staff that deal with the research description and even the staff we do have are over-worked and prone to making mistakes because one office (essentially 3 people) handles the grants to all agencies and foundations. This has been a constant source of outcry from the faculty, but to no avail.


  17. becca Says:

    “I also edit/proof/format manuscripts, apply for ethics certificates, handle MTAs and IP disclosures, manage funded projects, etc.”
    I think if my PI had someone like this to help with even 10% of his work doing this, he would be 400% happier. I know nothing makes me happier to turn my thumbs blue with pipetting than watching him take care of it all (quite capably, if with a glimmer of grumpiness).


  18. TeaHag Says:

    Our grant support team was invaluable to our research group when we attempted a U19 application. We were relatively new to the institution and unfamiliar with our potential project leaders. We were provided with strategic advice with regards to identifying key points in the RFA, and then more support with organizing meetings with the project participants, model applications from a university database to help with designing and describing cores etc. The U19 is going to be funded, so I have to say that taking advantage of these support systems worked for us (Thank you writedit for the good advice).
    Priority is given to new/early investigators and to program project-scale applications. I’m not sure how much the service is used though. I recently participated on a review panel for internal funding of pilot projects and some of the applications, while scientifically strong, were written by people who were receiving NOTHING in the way of grantsmanship advice/support.
    Use of the service is free which is pretty important I think. Something similar was available at my previous institution but the PI or his/her department was charged which effectively meant that you needed the support of your chair to use it. Still, they also assisted with publication submissions, making figures match the journal criteria etc. I’d happily pay someone to do that for me… with the inevitable changes of format upon rejection etc.


  19. anon Says:

    I thought that was what grad students were supposed to do in their “spare” time.


  20. Ava Says:

    To TeaHag:
    If you ever serve again on an internal pilot project review panel at your institution, and you recognize ‘people who [receive] NOTHING in the way of grantsmanship advice/support,” perhaps you can let their chairs know, in some kind fashion, that your institution can provide these services to their faculty free of charge (Writedit can point you to the appropriate department that assists investigators from all six of schools of the health sciences at your university). These services are more often than not underutilized and (shamefully or ineptly) poorly publicized – that said, there are individuals there who will be happy to help faculty with grant applications in any way that they can – take it from someone who knows, 🙂


  21. Anonymous Says:

    @ Ava,
    What was interesting about that internal review session was that admistratively it was a) organized by that same office and b) every single reviewer did their best to try deliver some kind of feedback to the relevant chairs/chiefs. There was some informal comment to me in a elevator afterwards along the lines of “large departments/instructor-level researchers without startup/darwinian/crawling onto the bank etc”.
    I’m doing my best… I’ve just sacrificed my SAHD partner to that office in a new position… 🙂


  22. TeaHag Says:

    That’s me above… (and so the circle closes!)


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