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Re: Dedicated Grants Development Efforts -Reply William Campbell 23 Apr 1998 07:25 EST

Betty wrote:

...Overall, I believe in the "if you can't write it, you can't do it"
philosophy.  While a grants person (writer or facilitator, whatever you
call it) can pull together pieces, do boilerplate on institutional
resources, or do editing, a PI or PD should be the one doing the
writing.  S/he will have to run the program if it's funded. ...

I disagree.  When I became the grants director here (University of
Wisconsin-River Falls), my charge was to increase the amount of external
funding.  This institution had not been very active in the grants
business--only part time attention from an administrator, campus culture
mitigated against proposal-writing in many departments, not very many folks had
proposal-writing skills or experience or nerve.  I found that one of the best
ways to stimulate more production was to write and co-write proposals myself.
Since then I've written or co-written 8-10 proposals per year.  I've found that
folks who aren't very good at writing proposals are frequently great at running

There are some qualifiers, of course.  First, I have to remind myself and
everyone else within hearing that the proposal I am helping to write will go
out over someone else's name.  So even though I might recommend a particular
project design or evaluation plan, the eventual PI will decide what goes in the
proposal.  Second, once the award is made I frequently have to consult with the
PI about setting up and running the project.  That's okay with me, but I
extricate myself as soon as possible.  Third, and most important, ego issues
must be addressed from the very beginning--I portray myself as the scribe for
other's ideas, even if that's not exactly true.

I started by writing these proposals mostly by myself.  As all of us learned
more about proposal-writing, we've had considerable success writing them
collaboratively.  A group of 4-5 will gather, brainstorm ideas, settle on a
direction, and I'll assign writing chores: one person will write objectives,
another will gather needs data, a third will design an evaluation plan, a
fourth will search for collaborators.  I'll write an outline and begin to
sketch a budget.  A couple of weeks later, we'll all gather and share, I'll
write a draft and circulate it, we'll meet again to edit, and off it goes.
Works very well, especially with proposals to set up programs.  I've not tried
it with research proposals (we don't write as many of them here), but I don't
see why it wouldn't work within a research group or in a lab.

Doubtless what has worked well here would not work at other universities.  With
a faculty which is grant-wise and experienced, I think Betty's approach is
sound--though new faculty might profit from some collaborative help.  But at
schools like this one, proposals written by or with the grants office have been
very successful.

Regards--and my apologies for the length of this post, this is an issue I've
thought about a lot--,
Bill Campbell
Director, Grants & Research
University of Wisconsin-River Falls
Telephone: 715/425-3195
FAX: 715/425-3185