Submitting a grant proposal for a project without being prepared to implement that project can be detrimental to the project and to the reputation of the investigator. Assessing readiness is an important step and can be helpful in identifying items that may need to be addressed prior to the submission of the proposal. The following are some issues that should be considered in the readiness assessment.
The qualifications of the project team are important in terms of convincing external reviewers of a team’s ability to successfully conduct the project as well as ensuring that the team is not committing beyond the resources and expertise available. The role of the investigator includes both the technical expertise necessary for the project and the management experience to effectively manage the project team and financial resources.
The grant proposal must convince reviewers that sufficient resources are able for the project to be conducted with success. Resources include such items as office and laboratory space, equipment and instrumentation, supplies, other sources of support beyond that which it is requested in the grant application. Resources can also be in the form of intellectual capital such as an empowered research environment and collaborations with colleagues. The applicant may not be ready if arrangements cannot be made to secure resources needed for the project that are not requested in the grant proposal.
Unless an application is being submitted to program specifically targeting preliminary studies, it is important that investigators are able to demonstrate to reviewers that both the quantity and quality of preliminary data indicate that the proposed project is likely to be successful. If such preliminary data is not available, efforts should be made to begin data collection prior to the submission of the proposal. If funding is needed for
preliminary data, investigators may be able to apply to small-scale programs that fund preliminary studies or seek internal support (i.e., through the University-Funded Scholarship Program or departmental support).
Sufficient time commitments from the project team are critical to the success of any funded project. If the team does not have time available to devote to project activities, the project is not likely to achieve the results outlined in a grant proposal. Individuals should speak with supervisors early in the proposal preparation process to arrange for alternative schedules that allocate sufficient time to project activities. In most cases, such “reassigned time” can be charged directly to sponsored project budgets, resulting in the availability of funds in the departmental budget for hiring replacement personnel. Investigators should always be cautious to avoid an overcommitment of duties.