Do you apply for a grant with 3% funding rate?

Recently I wrote about prioritizing: when do you choose to do experiments and when do you write papers and/or grants? Over the past year I’ve invested a lot of time in writing grants, with so far not the best results. And in my mind, that is the difference between investing time in papers vs grants. Papers will always end up somewhere, even if it’s in the Scandinavian journal of a Very Specific Sub-Subfield. But grants can get rejected, and then rejected again, and then go to die somewhere. Of course grants are just ideas (+ some preliminary data), whereas papers contain results, so it makes sense that it is this way.

But it does feel like a waste of time and energy when you have a grant rejected. And with the current funding lines of 10-20% (at least for most of the things that I have recently applied for) this will likely happen more often than not. But at which funding rate do you stop trying? I’m asking this because yesterday I found out that a fellowship  I applied for had a funding rate of only around 3%. They did not mention this anywhere, so I had for some optimistic reason assumed it would be higher. It was not. And I didn’t get this fellowship. Had I known that it was only 3%, would I still have applied? In this case, most likely I would have because I basically recycled an older application so it didn’t cost me that much time. But in case I needed to start writing from scratch I’m not sure.

So, where do you draw the line? Or do you always apply regardless of funding percentage?



Filed under academia, decisions, grant writing, ideas, life in the lab, publishing papers, review, writing

5 responses to “Do you apply for a grant with 3% funding rate?

  1. Always apply if you can. Part of it is improving your grantsmanship and refining your ideas, and part of it is that its a numbers game.

  2. I’d find it difficult to motivate myself to write an entirely new project for a 3% success rate – but to recycle an already existing proposal would be fine. The last grant I got was 8-12% success rate (depending on if look at the women-only rate – 8% – or the overall one – 12%). This motivates me enough to write new proposals for 10% schemes – at least for the next 2-3 times.

  3. I typically apply even with very low success rates. In some cases I am simply tailoring existing text to the specific aims and goals of a grant, so the investment in time is not horrendous. In other cases, if I have a new idea I typically pitch it to a agency or foundation that has a higher funding rate to get enough $ to carry out preliminary data. This allows my NSF/NIH etc. grants to be more fully fleshed out, through both preliminary research but also the feedback on the previous iterations.

    However there comes a time when you just have to do the damn science, and should I have enough funding to keep my head above water I like to focus on writing the papers. It makes me look like a more productive person to give grants too, and ultimately it’s why I got into science in the first place.

  4. Pingback: Breaking up with my science idea | InBabyAttachMode

  5. Pingback: Grant writing: don’t apply unless you are above average? | In Baby Attach Mode

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