#STEMSaturdays: Tips on Receiving Grants




In an ideal world, all scientists would be adequately funded to carry out their research and not have to stress about grant writing. Sadly, we don’t live in that world and many scientists have to worry about where their next round of money will come from. FemSTEM cannot guarantee these tips will get your grant application funded, but this article is a good starting point.


First, ask yourself the big question:


Are you eligible for this grant?


No point in writing up a funding proposal if you don’t qualify for the money! Read the application pre-requisites and follow the application guidelines exactly. Make sure you keep an eye on deadlines, giving yourself plenty of time to write... and rewrite... and rewrite... and...


You get the point! This means that it’s not always about how many funding grants you churn out. In fact, the saying “it’s not about quantity, but quality” rings true here.  That means having others read it to make sure clarity reigns supreme. I like to have a trusted colleague look over my grant — and then pass it to a friend outside of my field to make sure jargon is minimal and defined! When you have friends read it, make sure they can take away why your research is needed and how your research project fills the gaps in the field. 


Before you send it out, make sure your have checked your grammar, spelling, and math. The first two may be a given, but math?! Yup! You have to make sure your costs are justified and correctly add up. There’s nothing worse than asking for money and the amount not being right!


#Protip: Another way to make sure your grant stands out is to include a cover letter with your application, addressed to the correct people (or persons).  


So what should be in your proposal? Here are the basics:


  • A Summary – you usually write this last.
  • An Introduction that quickly covers why your area of study is important.
  • A section that discusses what work has been previously done, emphasizing research gaps.
  • An explanation of how your research would advance knowledge in that field.
  • A section explaining what your research will cover and how you will carry it out.
  • A budget that explains the need for the funding amount requested.
  • A justification of the budget (i.e. why the amount you are asking for is reasonable).
  • A timeline of when certain parts of the research will get accomplished.
  • A bibliography of the references cited throughout the proposal.


Once you have everything turned in, all we can do is wish you luck! Make sure you interpret the referees’ feedback carefully and don’t take rejection personally. Just revise and try applying again!


So where do you even start looking for money? At the end of a rainbow? Nah. Here are my favourite funding body starts: - lists all current discretionary funding opportunities from 26 agencies of the United States government, including the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy, and many others -- in other words, all the most important public funders of research in the United States. is free and does not require a subscription.


The National Science Foundation (NSF) - An independent federal agency, the U.S. National Science Foundation funds approximately 20 percent of all federally supported basic research conducted at America's colleges and universities. This is the place to search for NSF funding programs. The NSF Web site is free and does not require a subscription.


For more information on writing funding grants:


About the Author:

Melissa C Marquez is a marine biologist and science communicator based in New Zealand. She is the founder of the Fins United Initiative.  You can find her twitter here, and support her on Patreon here.