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“But mostly, just Grant Me”: Dealing with grant writing as an early career scholar

I have written grant proposals for research projects and successfully obtained funding to conduct research before, without much problem. But in the past couple of years, I’ve experienced my share of rejection. I will admit I wasn’t used to rejection (neither in publishing nor in grant-writing), so being denied funding came as a shock to me. This can be the result of several factors: ever-shrinking budgets for granting agencies, changes in research directions, and an increase in new applicants as well are factors that come to mind. I would like to think it’s not that I’m writing worse grants than I used to!

While I could conduct my research without much additional funding, writing grants is always in my mind. There are a number of things that, while I have outstanding support from my university, I can’t do without external funding. Asking my university to fund a large-scale, multi-site examination of sanitation, wastewater and hygiene conditions in six countries would be a little bit too much. I do need external funds to conduct this kind of project.

Mostly Just Grant Me

Comic (c) Jorge Cham and used for illustrative purposes only. Click the comic to go to the original site.

So when I came across Jorge Cham’s “The Prayer of a Professor” I couldn’t help but laugh, and feel that I relate SO MUCH. I made a colour photocopy and posted it on my office’s door. It’s funny that the professor prays “but mostly, just Grant Me”, as I often feel this way. Not because I feel external pressure from CIDE to write grants and get projects funded (publications are the yardstick I’m measured against, as well as my other scholarly activities – service, teaching, reaching out to the public). But because I really think there are just things we need to search funding for. I consider myself an empirical researcher, so I enjoy going on the field, learning from interviews, participant observation, focus groups. I am delving into field experiments. I’m a comparativist, so I often need to travel to different regions and countries to observe how waste and wastewater are generated and managed. So, the need for funding is always there.

How to deal with eternal grant writing processes (at this point I have 2 grants under review, 4 grants to write and one to revise, all for coordinated projects that are all part-and-parcel of my larger research project) as an early career researcher? I’ve thought about this over the course of this week, and I think the only advice I can offer is: don’t give up.

Posted in academia, research.

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