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I've personally witnessed a talented scientist spend a lot of time writing more than one grant for pretty specific geochronology work. On the question that spawned this one, a discussion broke out on my second-hand answer, and I wonder if there is a career in designing and writing grants for focused specialties.

Like a wedding planner for the physical sciences.

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    They are common in nonprofits outside academia. – Anonymous Physicist May 5 '18 at 2:15
  • I wonder how the economics of that would work out for a university. The grant-writer would need to have similar scientific knowledge to the PI, and not only be paid less than the PI, but less than the lowest replacement cost of the PI's activities (e.g. less than paying an adjunct to teach one of the PI's classes, to give the PI more time to write grants). – Nate Eldredge May 5 '18 at 2:50
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    Universities usually do have an office to assist with writing and submitting grants, but those staff don't necessarily have a scientific background in "focused specialties". – Nate Eldredge May 5 '18 at 2:53
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    @OlegLobachev "writing" as in generating research ideas, yes. Writing as in filling in obscure forms, not necessarily. – Dmitry Savostyanov May 5 '18 at 11:01
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    @joshperry: Maybe. I know that in at least some cases, it is forbidden to use grant funds to pay anyone (including the PI) for past or future grant writing. Of course, the university could pay it out of indirects (this is often how the grants office is funded). – Nate Eldredge May 5 '18 at 22:33
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For H2020 submissions in Europe, there are many companies specialized in improving a grant proposal, and managing administratively the project if it gets funded. Such projects have to have several partners (both academic and from industry) from several European countries in their consortium.

In particular, because H2020 requires (see this template) a chapter like Impact (on the European economy or society) on which academics are probably not the best to write about. Sometimes that chapter is written by industrial partners of the H2020 consortium.

  • which one would you suggest – SSimon May 5 '18 at 14:41
  • I'm not the best at suggesting one, and that would be a matter of opinion, and probably depends upon the particular H2020 call you are submitting to – Basile Starynkevitch May 5 '18 at 16:31
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As stated in the comments, yes, they are common outside of universities. Big for-profit research shops (e.g., Lockheed, Raytheon) also have them. It's actually more cost effective to pay technical writers than to have the well-paid scientists spending their limited time on this. Similarly, such companies typically have also an "art department" just for the graphics in proposals and reports -- system diagrams, logos, etc. (separate from whatever CAD software they use for technical drawings).

I've never worked with either of these myself, but my understanding is that the PI is still responsible for the proposal and everything in it -- they generate the ideas, approach, etc. -- the technical writer is just translating the ideas into proposal form (and wrangling with Microsoft Word -- not all funding agencies accept LaTeX!).

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    "translating the ideas into proposal form": and into English, in the case of the grant writer I know socially, who is a native speaker living in Spain. – Peter Taylor May 5 '18 at 6:27
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    "not all funding agencies accept LaTeX!" D: Well, at least I learned something new again... – SK19 May 5 '18 at 22:59
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    @SK19 - it gets worse when you get to cybersecurity-related stuff -- some of the agencies require you to access their site using Internet Explorer in Windows (the least secure browser in the least secure OS) to access Government sites that have invalid certificates (such that modern browsers refuse to load them because they're insecure) -- in order to load security-related stuff! What a joke... – cag51 May 6 '18 at 2:32

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