Research funding applications are significantly more likely to be successful when a grant administrator edits or helps to write the proposal, a study suggests.
Analysis of applications lodged by academics at two Portuguese institutions found that there was a success rate of 18.9 per cent when grant managers gave only “basic” or “intermediate” support. These categories cover administrative assistance and services such as advice on application strategy and budget review.
When “advanced” support was provided – in effect, when grant managers edited, reviewed or wrote parts of the proposal text – the success rate increased to 61 per cent.
Author Margarida Trindade, a research funding manager at the ISCTE-University Institute of Lisbon, told Times Higher Education that the findings “argue in favour of the idea that specialised input into a grant increases approval rates, namely by improving the non-scientific parts of the text, rendering the text overall more coherent and logical, or by providing the necessary twist to better align it with the goals of the funder and evaluation criteria”.
The paper, co-authored with Raul Laureano, an assistant professor at the university’s business research unit and Sheila Vidal, head of the research funding affairs unit at the Gulbenkian Institute of Science, on the outskirts of Lisbon, was published online by the journal of the Association of University Administrators, Perspectives: Policy and Practice in Higher Education.
The trio examined 78 applications for Marie Curie individual grants, administered by the European Commission, which were lodged over a three-year period by academics at the Gulbenkian and the Institute of Molecular Medicine at the University of Lisbon.
Dr Trindade said that providing advanced support for grant applications was not cheap for universities. But she argued that there were other, less tangible benefits to close engagement between academics and administrators. “Involving grant managers in the training of early stage researchers may generate researchers better equipped to deal with the high demands of a competitive grant system,” she said.