Sharpening Your Focus: Early Feedback for a Strong Proposal

February 7, 2019

icon of magnifying glass with puzzle pieceA recent NIH study (also here) indicated that consistency of proposal quality was a significant factor in steady funding success. From a Research Development perspective, this suggests that “getting feedback” is integral to obtaining and maintaining funding. A study section should never be the first review of your proposal, and investigators should seek more objective input than what project collaborators offer.

There are many options around campus for getting expert feedback:

  • Hold a Chalk Talk: Reserve a conference room and invite department colleagues and/or other subject matter experts (send them your Specific Aims page in advance). Write your proposed aims on a whiteboard and walk them through. Don’t use slides; the whiteboard allows you to make changes and take notes, or sketch diagrams when necessary. Engage with your audience and ask thoughtful questions—leverage their expertise and experiences to hone your aims.
  • Find U-M Experts: Use experts.umich.edu to discover other U-M faculty who may have insight to your project. The database has more than 5,000 faculty profiles that are searchable by key words and list research outputs. Ask these colleagues to review your proposal drafts. You may even find a new collaborator.
  • New sponsor? If you’re seeking funding from a sponsor that is new to you, use the Sponsored Awards on the Web (SAW) database to explore who else at U-M has gotten funding from this sponsor. Ask them for any tips, or if they’re aware of the sponsor’s upcoming funding priorities.
  • Consultation: Reach out to MICHR’s Research Development Core for consultations with a committee that includes research faculty, biostatisticians and grant editors. The RDC can advise on many issues, including study design, appropriate funding mechanisms, etc.
  • Foundation funding: If you’re seeking funding from a foundation sponsor, reach out to the Corporate & Foundation Relations office. Team members there can advise on how to best approach foundations and review proposal drafts.

Sharpening Your Focus: Tips on Grant Proposal Preparation is a series of tips published in Medical School Research News about proposal preparation. Written by Jill Jividen, Ph.D., Assistant Director for Research Development, you can view the full archive of articles here.