Help faculty get the most out of grant writing trainings

By Jackson Nell

Too often, faculty say that grant writing trainings are unhelpful. Trainings frequently share generic information that faculty members could find through independent research or speaking to a colleague. As a result, sessions fail to produce the best learning outcomes and waste limited opportunities to proactively support faculty and strengthen grant submissions.

Trainings are more impactful if they focus on faculty members’ own work and leverage expert insights. To better align with faculty needs, some colleges and universities facilitate peer reviews and provide access to experts during their grant writing trainings. This allows faculty members to ask specific questions, gather actionable information, and better address their unique concerns.

Evaluate your grant writing trainings against these two practices and read on to find out what other elements contribute to effective trainings.

1. Facilitate peer review and editing

Peer editing and reviewing gives faculty the opportunity to not only respond to feedback on their work but also conduct a review themselves. This helps faculty understand the grant submission process from the perspective of a reviewer while learning about a peer’s work and proposal approach.

In general, trainings should be interactive in design and focus on using the actual work of faculty participants. Trainings should center around faculty grant proposals and incorporate group discussions, self-review, and peer review.

Workshop facilitators should ensure peer review discussions stay on track by providing faculty with a worksheet and instructions for reviewing peer proposals. The graphic below outlines the basic steps of a peer review activity:

Basic steps of a peer review activity 

2. Provide access to established experts

It's important for faculty to interact with experts in grant writing and reviewing. By asking experts in-depth, personalized questions, faculty can improve their writing and proposal approach.

These experts can be found on campus or hired from other institutions. While universities leverage experts to some extent, they can improve their efforts by ensuring they have the right mix of guest speakers and facilitators. If possible, workshops should have presenters selected for specific audiences. For example, a former program officer from NIH would be the best fit for biologists and medical doctors.

The graphic below outlines the three archetypes of established experts to invite to grant writing trainings. Inviting one of each type will provide multiple perspectives on the grant writing process. It's also important for at least one of the experts to be an internal faculty member who can serve as a role model and help make success seem more attainable.

Three types of experts to invite to grant writing trainings

Next, provide faculty with research mentorship

10 Strategies to Strengthen Faculty Research Mentorship Opportunities infographic

Mentorship has long been a critical element of faculty development, yet the ad hoc nature of these relationships means they are largely unstructured—and early-career faculty have varying experiences and support networks.

View the 10 most impactful tactics for building an effective research mentorship program, plus real-life examples from peer schools.

Download the Infographic

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Four Components of Effective Grant Writing Trainings

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