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I’ll Grant You This: It’s Not Only About the Science!

By Brandi Johnson-Weaver


Writing grant proposals to support  laboratory research is a key function for academic scientists.

Research funds are limited. The harsh reality is that only about 20 percent of proposals submitted to federal agencies such as the National Institutes of Health and National Science Foundation actually receive funding.

Since I, too, will have to support my own research through grants, I was motivated to learn more about how grants are analyzed so I could improve my ability to generate research funds.

During the winter of 2013-14 I had the unique opportunity to participate in an internship at the North Carolina Biotechnology Center as a program analyst, observing the grant proposal process from the perspective of NCBiotech as a grant funding agency.

I analyzed and summarized grant applications and identified potential reviewers for those proposals. I learned the importance of following all of the written instructions of the funding agency, creating a realistic timeline, budgeting grant expenses and adhering to deadlines.

I also had the opportunity to make a funding recommendation for a proposal submitted to NCBiotech’s Biotechnology Research Grant program.

Serving as an analyst expanded my ability to critique proposals for their impact on the overall advancement of scientific knowledge.

My goal for participating in this internship was to understand what makes a grant attractive for funding. I learned that it’s important to tell a compelling story that clearly explains the applicant’s research objectives in the context of existing scientific knowledge.

 I hope the next grant that I write will be funded. And I think my internship at NCBiotech will improve my chances for success.

Brandi Johnson-Weaver is pursuing a career in basic science and clinical research as a Duke University Medical Center graduate student working toward a Ph.D. in pathology with a concentration in immunology.

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