Why Do Academics Need Grants Editors?

Even the most established senior academics will often need an editor’s support with their grant applications. Some need your help because they’ve had a busy semester. Some haven’t written a grant in a few years, or they may be stepping into a new subject area. Others may be getting help because they haven’t had success in a few years.

Whether they’re new on the tenure track or decades into their career, your support and perspective can help an academic clarify their proposed research and present it persuasively. In their study "Factors Impacting Successfully Competing for Research Funding: An Analysis of Applications Submitted to the Plastic Surgery Foundation" (2015), Keith Hume, Aviram Giladi, and Kevin Chung found that the two factors that most influenced reviewers’ decisions were “plan for execution” (that is, feasibility) and “grantsmanship” (that is, quality of writing). Among the problems with writing that they found in unfunded grants were “applications that were likely hastily prepared, poorly written, confusing to read, not complete, or did not follow the directions” (p. 432e). They conclude:

Data from our study show that grant reviewers do not want to struggle with working their way through a poorly written or poorly structured grant application […] Grant applicants also need to pay particular attention to grammatical errors and misspellings. When reviewers identify those types of errors in a grant application, it commonly results in a reviewer questioning the ability and seriousness of the applicant to carry out the proposed research (p. 4333).

And while their study focused on submissions to a funding agency in one particular medical subfield, there’s no evidence to suggest that Hume, Giladi, and Chung’s findings are limited to the field of plastic surgery research. As an editor—whether in-house or freelance—your work can be the difference between a funded and an unfunded proposal.

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