Re: Grant Writers Jim Brett 04 Jun 1997 18:07 EST

Proposal Writers --

One sometimes hears it said that there are two broad categories of
proposals: 1) scholarship/research and 2) academic/mission-related.  In
the first category you will find terminology, methodology, purpose, and
affect that are clearly beyond the so-called "grant writer."  These
proposals can always do with a good cold read, however, and always can
benefit from someone helping with fetching up boilerplate information
from which the proposer will select appropriate information.  These
proposals can be greatly assisted by the willing feet and hands of
persons who will get signatures and fill out the forms required by
agencies.  But, of all these only the "cold read" would I consider to be
in the domain of a professional "grant writer" and even then, the "grant
writer" will have virtually zero to say about the facts asserted,
methodology, and the goals and objectives declared.

In the second category, academically/mission-related, you will find
projects from student services personnel and various kinds of
academic-administrative projects that touch the lives of
students/patients and faculty, but not the essence of scholarship or
laboratory/library research.  Some of these are innovative training
projects, some are new ways of dealing with incipient illiteracy and
innumeracy. Some of these proposals are so constrained by program
guidelines that virtually anyone with a spell-check program could
write.  Most of this category requires a good deal of common sense and
willingness to synthesize and transcribe the thoughts of a variety of
people into plain and persuasive English.

A major point in your discussions is the nature of the ideosyncracies of
your institution, i.e., what is the culture regarding authorship and
detail (document and administrative)?

I think also that some "grant writers" are good teachers/trainers and
are useful well "before the fact" of a specific proposal.  We have been
doing workshops here to some benefit, I think.  We have invited faculty
we know who are in the throes of writing proposals to attend these
workshops and have asked the trainers to comment in writing on the
drafts that are submitted to them.  This seems to be beneficial, too.

There are also people out there willing to provide you with ideas,
connections, and will even promise legislation to support your
institution.  I have deliberately left them out of my comments, since
they should be judged more on their portfolios of successes than on
generalizable skills.

Finally, there are notable exceptions to all of this, and some of our
colleagues are classic examples of the occasional renaissance person who
for some reason prefers a university setting to a more orderly life.

James R. Brett, Ph.D., Director
Office of University Research
California State University, Long Beach
562-985-5314 or fax 562-985-8665