Support Where You Need It Most

No, no – not *there*. In your grant application. I’m a bit P30-ed out right now, but am reminded in the course of this adventure to remind yuns the importance of solid letters of support, especially if they involve institutional commitment.

First and foremost, you do not want reviewers to be able to hold the stack of letters to the light & see all the paragraphs line up. Each letter must be unique (and yes, dear grant applicant, you will be ghosting these for the actual signatory) and convey specific details specific to that person/office/etc. And of course they are all delighted-enthusiastic-fully supportive of your proposed effort, which will clearly put you in the running for a trip to Stockholm in a decade or two.

These letters need to cite exactly how your work will benefit the institution, the signatory’s mission, the institution’s vision/strategic plan/related BS, and so on. Any well-defined personnel, funds, shared facilities, shared equipment, future recruits, new space, and so forth that can be promised on your behalf will be noted approvingly by reviewers.

The letter cannot say you will merely do good and avoid evil, though that would be a worthy course to take. The letter’s author must convey awareness and appreciation of your aims and approach and long-term impact locally and on public health (or state of science, for NSF and other non-PHS type proposals).

The signatory can brag about why she/he brings credibility to the effort and why his/her support should be of interest to the sponsor. If the letter writer will be working in a mentoring role, time to lay out all that past experience running a productive post-doc shop, um, I mean training environment, publishing with his/her trainees, nudging trainees onto get their own damn grants, etc.

And as always, please check the funding announcement in case any guidance is provided about what the study section will want to see in these letters (most often for center/program project/large cooperative type efforts and proposals that involve mentoring).

Ah, and if you plan to have the signatory commit some specific funds, space, or other tangible goodie, best to discuss this promised present in advance rather than have said signatory discover what he/she is expected to cough up when he/she reads the letter you’ve ghosted. They could get carried away by the moment & sign in a flushed flourish … but probably only with proper non-IRB-approved lubrication.


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