I have been asked to speak at a grant writing workshop for the School of Mathematics and Physics at UQ.
Here are a few preliminary thoughts.
Consider not applying.
Seriously. Consider the opportunity cost. An application requires a lot of time and energy. The chances of success are slim. Would you be better off spending the time writing a paper and waiting to apply next year? Or, would it be best to write one rather than two applications? You do have a choice.
Don't listen to me.
It is just one opinion. Some of my colleagues will give you the opposite advice. I have never been on a grant selection committee. My last 3 grant applications failed. Postmortems of failed applications are just speculation. What does and does not get funded remains a mystery to me.
Take comfort from the "randomness" of the system.
You have a chance. Don't stress the details. Recycle old unsuccessful applications. Don't take it personally when you fail.
Who is your actual audience? Write with only them in mind.
For the Australian Research Council it is probably not your international colleagues but rather the members of the College of Experts. It needs to be written in terms they can understand and be impressed by.
Why should they give YOU a grant?
I find many people sweat about the details of the research project or think if they have brilliant cutting edge project they will get funded. I doubt it. Track record, and particularly track record relevant to the proposed project is crucial.
Not all pages are equal.
Unfortunately, the application will be 60-100 pages. Don't kid yourself that reviewers will carefully read and digest every page. Some are much more important than others. You should focus on those.
The first page of the project description is the most important. Polish it.
I sometimes read this and I have no idea what the person is planning to do. I quickly lose interest.
"Contributions to the field" and "Research accomplishments" means scientific knowledge generation not career advancement or hyperactivity.
Choose your co-investigators carefully.
They may lift you up or weigh you down. I am usually skeptical of people who have "big name" co-investigators they have never actually published with before. The more investigators the larger the application, and the more material available for criticism. Junior investigators need to realise that the senior people will usually get all the credit for the grant, even if they contributed little to the application. This is the Matthew effect.
Trim the budget.
The larger the budget the greater the scrutiny. It is better to get a small grant than no grant at all. Ridiculously large requests will strain your credibility.
Moderate the hype, both about yourself and technological applications.
There are reviewers like me who will not take you seriously and be more critical of the application.
Be discerning about what publication metrics (citations, journal impact factors) to include.
Impact factors have no impact on me. I don't see the point or value of short term citations.
Writing IS hard work, even for the experienced.
See Tips in the writing struggle.
Get started early. Get feedback.
Write. Edit. Polish. Rewrite. Polish. Polish.
My criteria for research quality.
Responding to feedback from administrators in the university Research Office.
Put in the application early. They can give very helpful feedback about compliance issues, formatting, page limits. Take with "a grain of salt" advice/exhortations about selling you and the science.
I welcome comments and suggestions.
What advice and suggestions have you received that were helpful or not helpful?