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Invest in a Grant Writer

Posted on August 15, 2013

Christina Mangurian (bio) explains how the guidance of a grant writer can make all the difference in the world when it comes to getting funded.


I did something unusual for my grant writing the time that I wrote for my K. And one of my mentors, the chief of general internal medicine, Dean Schillinger at UCSF [University of California, San Francisco], he recommended that I get this one guy, basically pay this one guy, to help me write my grant. So, I had a grant writer help me with it.

And so, there's a book that you can actually buy that's excellent for writing grants for NIH [National Institutes of Health]. It's a spiral bound copy book, which is wonderful, and he directed me to. But I took this guy's class. He had like a seven-week class that worked through each part of the K award.

And then he went through with me — he's written hundreds of grants. So, he kind of knows there's a general formula for how you write these things. And so, he knew how to write it and what things were missing. And I worked with him and basically got mentored by him to write this grant, but very closely on grant writing.

And I did something else; I think I wrote a big review paper for the state of California, got paid an honorarium for that, and then gave the honorarium to him. But it was one of the best investments because the grant at first didn't get a good score because of a very silly thing, like I'd put something in the appendix that they felt like shouldn't have been in the appendix, it should have been in the main part. It was really ridiculous. But my next score was, like, a 10, which is as good as you can get. And so, I really believe that that was because of this guy's guidance and making my grant very clear.

And once you have one very good grant in your area, you can use it for all sorts of other things and other grants. So, my other grants end up being very strong because they have that same kind of formula already built into it.

So, I think getting a grant writer, and especially when you're even more senior, thinking about — you know, I've talked to my chief about whether we should hire a grant writer for our staff, whether to hire a scientific writer to help us write some of our papers. Because scientists can be very great scientists, but that doesn't mean that they're great writers.

I got a piece into British Medical Journal with the help of a scientific writer sharpening my work. And so, I would suggest just looking into the resources that your institution has for grant writing or for scientific writing to assist you and to sharpen your writing skills.

You can ask your chairman. You could find out that people — some people have actually consulting firms that are grant writing firms that do that as their full-time job, that you can give them part of your grant to help with grant writing.

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Excerpted from interview with researcher at the 2013 Career Development Institute for Psychiatry in Palo Alto, CA.


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