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Secret Tips for Grant Submissions

June 24, 2010

“Fertile vistas may open out when
commonplace facts are
examined from a fresh point of view.”

L.L. Whyte

UBC is renowned for world-class research, innovative thinking, and its talented community of faculty, staff and students.  But research excellence relies on funding — and securing that funding is competitive and challenging! How can your grant application stand out from the competition?

Small Point = Big Difference

Researchers who face the challenge of breaking into the ‘fundable area’ realize that decimal point differences in final scores can literally translate to hundreds of thousands of dollars difference in final funding. For example, at the Canadian Institute of Health Research (CIHR) table, a score of 4.3 could mean $750,000 compared with a 4.2 that provides no cash. Not a small point after all! Obviously any ‘edge’ you can give your grant submission is worth the effort ten-fold.

Leveraging Media in your Favour

Studies by educational researchers have shown that approximately 83% of human learning occurs visually.  Also, studies have shown that by adding relevant visual media to text, retention rates increase up to 89% over using text alone. It’s no wonder that a large proportion of academics best access information `visually’!   Well-designed graphics, diagrams and photographs can quickly tell the story at first glance. A customized `theoretical framework` or a diagram to illustrate the biology that underpins key processes may help reviewers understand the fundamental concepts of your research more quickly and easily.

Find the Balance

When you stop and think about it, funding committees read hundreds of pages in grant proposals. On a purely visual level, these submissions equate to thousands of pages of black text on white paper. Adding relevant visuals to perfectly summarize your concepts not only adds interest to your submission, but makes you stand out. Key words to remember here are “make it meaningful”. Your choice of image(s) should add depth of understanding to your content. There is an art to striking a balance between meaningful information, good design and providing enough information — but not so much information that the graphics become cluttered or confusing.

Dynamic Communication

The process of grant reviewing is not an empirical science. Considering the difference a fraction of a point can make for the success or failure of significant funding, a preliminary investment to work with professional media experts can greatly impact long-term gains. For example, The Media Group helped grant applicants secure over $5 million dollars in new grant funding last year alone! Your initial investment for images is cost effective because those images generally have a high re-use value.  One single image used for a grant submission can often be re-purposed for lectures, conferences, progress reports, websites, podcasts and/or on-line learning at a later date.

Final Consideration

After success in receiving the funding for your research, keep in mind that you will likely be required to present and publish your findings at the end of your project timeline. By factoring the cost of production time into your grant proposal, your department will be covered for the provision of professional media design when the time arrives. Think creatively and utilize media to your best advantage!

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