Grant dodging

August 4, 1995

A Glasgow University research council grants committee member has issued his colleagues with a handy guide on grant applications.

In order to avoid the extra work and higher research profile which a grant will inevitably bring, his suggestions for ensuring the failure of your application include: "Throw every idea that you have had in the field, good and bad, at the prospective reviewers. Leave them to sort out what you might mean. This will increase the chances that they misinterpret your project. A muddled approach has the advantage that subsequent feedback about your failed application will give you the reassuring impression that the reviewer was incompetent to assess your work.

"Know your own strongest suits and avoid playing to them. Do not point out relevant skills you might possess; with luck the referees will be unaware of precise details of your CV. Ask especially for consumables, for equipment or for staff in areas about which you, like Manuel, 'know nothing'. The presentation of data from successful pilot experiments is to be strenuously avoided: this approach alone can come close to guaranteeing success.

"Most grant bodies have pro-formas or explicit guidelines for the application itself. Deviations from any prescribed form are easily achieved and may be enough to secure failure. Some grant-giving bodies, however, can retrieve even the most adventurous abuses so you might have to go to extraordinary lengths to ensure refusal; in fact extraordinary length itself is a good route."

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