Landing grants made more doable


Given the tough competition for tight resources among scientists, clinicians and other researchers, writing a successful research proposal and getting funding for it seem fraught with difficulty. A workshop offered by the Des Moines University Office of Research on Nov. 18, however, will help equip the more than 20 participating University faculty and staff to meet the challenge.

Designed for basic scientists and clinical investigators both experienced in writing grants and new to the process, the “Get Funding, Create Change: Research Proposal Workshop” explored steps from idea generation proposal development to application submission, the review process and funding. Overall, instructors affiliated with the Grantsmanship Center worked to give participants inspiration and confidence.

“Your motivation should be that you really care about making a difference or a discovery, and that what you want to do will have an impact,” said Christine Kahan Black, M.L.S., assistant director for research services at the University of Michigan Medical School.

“Getting funding for a proposal is just the first step,” added Jacob Levin, Ph.D., assistant vice chancellor of research and development at the University of California-Irvine. “You’ve got to be ready to commit the next five years of your life to the complete process.”

The workshop supports DMU’s vision for cultivating distinctive faculty and student researchers who discover and disseminate new knowledge. In recent years, University researchers have landed significant external grants, in addition to institutional support, from entities including the National Institutes of Health (NIH), National Science Foundation (NSF) and the American Heart Association.

That success has come amid the stiff competition nationwide for research grants. “It’s hard to get funding in the current environment,” said Mollie Lyon, DMU’s grants and contracts manager, “but both Jacob and Christine offered great straightforward and practical information for the researchers to put together their best proposal.”

The proposal process has its rewards, the workshop instructors said. It helps applicants focus their goals, immerse themselves in their field and identify potential collaborators, and getting funded is highly validating of their pursuits for knowledge.

“Then you can make a difference by doing the work and being the expert,” Levin said.

Workshop participants discussed granting agencies of greatest interest to their investigations, including federal, private and industrial sources. They left the session with a binder of resources, examples and other information.

“I highly appreciate the step-by-step approach on how to apply for funding through the NIH and the educational videos,” said Elitsa Ananieva, Ph.D., assistant professor of biochemistry and nutrition. “I am also grateful for the binder that contains all the information presented today that I can easily go back to when ready to start my own application. With no doubt this was the best and most comprehensive workshop about NIH-funded research opportunities that I have ever attended.”

Rachel Reimer, Ph.D., associate professor and chair/director of the University’s master of public health program, noted that while many of the workshop attendees have experience in submitting grants, the presenters affirmed such skills always can be improved.

“This is an area where even seasoned researchers can continue to grow,” she said. “The speakers facilitated some very positive work-group sessions, and I found it very valuable.”

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