Seminar provides UO faculty with strategies for grant writing success

More than 50 faculty members and postdocs attended an all-day workshop designed to help UO researchers maximize the competitiveness of their proposals to federal agencies. The session was sponsored by the Office of the Vice President for Research & Innovation through its Research Development Services (RDS) unit. RDS assists faculty in seeking support for research, performance, public service and scholarly projects.

In opening remarks for the March 20 session, Interim Vice President for Research and Innovation Brad Shelton, pointed to the success of an earlier version of the seminar. Seventy percent of UO faculty members who attended the workshop obtained funding through competitive external programs within two years — an impressive “graduation rate” by any standard, Shelton concluded.

Peg AtKisson, Ph.D., a grantsmanship expert, neuroscientist and previously a federally funded faculty member at Tufts University School of Medicine, led the workshop, which emphasized NIH and NSF awards.

Drawing on years worth of experience as the director of proposal development at Tufts University, AtKisson walked through some of the ways faculty members can stay ahead of the competition. Simple strategies such as knowing what a federal agency is mandated to do, tailoring a grant application toward a specific agency mission, looking for opportunities to collaborate, focusing on awards in addition to publications, and noting “trends” in research funding can all help improve the odds of winning a grant, she said.

And despite facing an increasingly cutthroat funding environment, AtKisson said researchers today have more information at their fingertips than ever before. She pointed to the availability of online tools, including extensive agency databases, RSS feeds and social media, as means of staying on top of funding announcements.

“Grant writing, is not an inherently interesting subject,” AtKisson acknowledged. “But if you view grant writing as an intellectual process of thinking through what you want to do, you are more likely to be successful.”

The seminar was presented by Grant Writers Seminars and Workshops, an organization composed of successful university researchers, that is well known for offering comprehensive and high-quality training programs for faculty investigators at many of the nation’s best research universities. Participating faculty members received a comprehensive reference workbook in either NSF or NIH format. Postdoctoral appointees were also encouraged to attend.