This guide is designed to introduce you into what it means to write a proposal for a research grant and hopefully can provide you with some hints, dos and maybe donts. Note: This is not to be understood as a setp-by-step guide, but rather as a starting point for getting to know about the (always individually shaped) process of writing a proposal and a colleciton of best practices and resources.
Why we write proposals
For understanding wirting proposals is always a big issue in our group, you first have to have a basic understanding of the provision of finance of a professorship.
A professor typically has a fixed annual budget which she/he negotiated with the university. With this budget staff can be employed, such as secretaries, researchers, etc. and acquisitions of hard- software , travelling expenses, etc. ... can be made. This kind of money is a more or less regular and fixed, which is why staff paid via "Haushaltsmittel" (we often eferr to this as "Haushalt", read: budget funds) can principally be employed permanently with nothing to worry about. This however, strictly limits your size as a research group.
Beyond the fixed budget, a professorship as basically two more options of raising money via external funds:
- Direct paid cooperations or orders from industrial partners, or
- applying for research grants
In Germany and Europe, a lot of research is publicly funded by most different facilities (we describe them in chapter 2). These provide announcements (most times published via their websites, find resources in chapter 2), inviting universities and enterprises to apply for research grants..
This way, a group can grow beyond the staff financed via budget funds. However, these projects are limited in time (typically 1 to 3 years) and budget (varying widely), which makes it necessary to constantly write new proposals, to be able to sustain the employment of all group members. You too, most likely are (or will be at some point in time during your phd here) employed via an external research grant funding, which somebody else will have raised.
Now dont feel bad about it, thats just normal. The takeaway here is, that everybody writes for everyone.
Writing proposlas thus is not just keeping your job, but a kind of community services to all of us!
What to expect from this WIki
Setting up an application for a research grant is "writing a proposal". Generally this process is following similar steps every time, which si reflected in the structure of this wiki. However, formal procedures, formats and the informal discussion on developing a topic for a research project proposal are highly depending on the facility and announcement in question (find some basic introduction on this in chapter 3).
This is not a step by step guide, but should provide a general idea what it means and takes to write a proposal to give you a jumpstart, because writing succesful proposals is not easy.
It takes a lot of time and effort, and the competition is high!
So in case your get started on writing a proposal, we seek to give you some resources to benefit from experienced writers and succesful proposals.
We hope you find it useful! If not, please contribute to improving this wiki!
2. Call identification [Rainer/David]
Most likely one of the first steps: Find a suitable call for research proposals to finance your idea. We provide guidance on differences between calls (EU, national, different ministries) and how to find them in the first place.
3. Ideation & Consortium [Fabiano/Sven]
Another challenge is to develop an idea that fits the call perfectly. And its not only about the idea: Often times calls will only grant funds to consortia, which should be set up with great care.
4. Writing a proposal
Youve got your idea and all the partners? Great, now lets write that down! There are many formal things to take care of and of course there are best practices of how to arrange and formulate the proposal more informally. Additionally, managing all partners expectations regarding cost planning is crucial. Finally, you may get an idea of what partners should and will contribute to your proposal, and what probably will be left to you.
5. Basic Resources
Here you should find all resources and links and documents, such as best practice cost calculations, some more-or-less standard paragraphs for certain parts of a proposal and full succesful proposals for different public facilities.
6. Contract [Timo]
This part is still under development. We seek to determine guidelines on what to calls to address/not address, and how workload for proposal writers should be managed.