I finished my Ph.D. in Robotics in a French institution and I am moving to Switzerland for my PostDoc.

For my new position, I am supposed to write a lot of grant proposals. I participated in writing grant proposals in the past (not many) already. I would like to know if someone of you knows a good place where to learn how to do it. I am wondering if there are books you suggest, links, or whatever comes to your mind.

For now I found these books:

I love learning and improving myself, I love reading, therefore any suggestion is well accepted.

Thanks in advance.

  • 1
    You should discuss this with your advisor.
    – user9482
    Jul 20, 2018 at 10:37
  • 1
    This is not a person-specific question. The OP can discuss that with his supervisor (or may have already done that), but he is now asking for advice from Academia.se community. Many others will benefit from good answers.
    – Orion
    Jul 20, 2018 at 10:43

1 Answer 1


To avoid treating it as a shopping question, I'm providing other advice beyond reading. You'll see that reading can only get you so far.

I'm in the US so some of these scattered thoughts may not apply, but I wish the other some would be helpful to you.

Find a senior collaborator: As a start you may want to consider being a co-investigator with someone who is more senior. Most of the time, you should be able to find one in your department. Some may also use their previous PhD mentor as a start, which is good but do make it a point to diversify your pool of collaborators.

The senior collaborators can help you navigate the system, give comments to your work, and even share examples with you. They provide a lot more than what one can learn from books.

Gather information, make them handy: Ideas ebb and flow, establish a habit to regularly browse journal articles, have an idea taking mechanism at hand (phone, computer, notebook, etc.) Keep adding, revisiting, and thinking. You have also acquired some books, keep them around the desk so that when you want to write, you don't have to get up to look for stuff.

Build internal network: Make an effort to attend research seminars in your institute, build connections with some peers who are going through the same stage as you do. They can be from the same department, or other departments that compliment what you do.

Build external network: In the first 2-3 years this may not be as crucial, but be mindful to allocate some time and resource to connect with people outside your institute. Join some professional committees and contribute as an author or help with the committee; attend conference and present; go to new-collaborator mingling sessions.

Be familiar with institutional support: Meet with your department head and other related deans to learn about what supports are there. For instance, do you have a grant support office? Can someone draft the budget for you? Can someone provide the list of the university infrastructure which is sometimes required by grant proposal? What is the due time to hand in all your final draft? How much overhead would your institute take? Any lab space and hard/software support? etc.

Be familiar with granting agencies: Through your conversations, collect information on the granting agencies. There may be governmental or paid sites that collect and collate grant proposal requests that you can search, or be e-mailed to you based on your specified keywords. Once you have identified a request for proposal, read the document very carefully to make sure you can craft your proposal appropriately. If they have a grant manager, feel free to connect with them if you have any specific questions.

A bigger picture is also important here: for instance, how many grant cycles are there? How particular or peculiar their application processes are? How much overhead would they allow? Is there any mechanism such as STEM or new investigator privilege/advantage you can capitalize on?

Schedule fixed writing time: That's pretty much what it says. Grant writing usually got crowded out by other administrative and academic work. Schedule ahead and safeguard the time.

Have the right mind set, don't be shy: If you have gathered a group of peers, consider forming a writing group and circulate drafts for each other to comment on. If grant review came back and you want to talk about how to address the critiques, circulate that as well. The core thought to cultivate early is that your work is not you. Sometimes you may get scathing review and sometimes you may get good reviews from everyone but one person just hated it. Having a group of peers provides a channel to decompress and get feedbacks.

Participate in ad hoc grant review: As a new investigator this may not be an immediate opportunity, but if you're invited to be an ad hoc reviewer of grant proposals, consider it. It requires tons of time and work, but it allows you to get an idea on how reviews happen, and what are the topography out there. Immensely useful.

Revise, reuse, recycle: Keep this a running mill. And in the same time, keep a paper writing mill. Look for win-win in between teaching, proposal writing, paper writing, and learning. For instance, direct some students to write and submit a paper on a topic you work on; use journal article to refine an idea or compile and release preliminary work (you'll need that in the proposal); proposal got rejected by perhaps being too premature? Use the background section to write an editorial; proposal got rejected again because you're too junior and the work is too ambitious? Break it into some smaller seed grants, career training grants, or student mentoring grants. Be creative and relentless.

Draft a 1- and a 5-year plan: Now that you have more clues. Draft a 1- and 5-year plan. Be wild and have fun. Think about what you want to see done in future. Keep re-visiting and revising the plans.

Document your mood and productivity: Later you'll realize that you enjoy some parts of this process, but not some others. Having a mood/productivity evaluation would be very useful. Once you have accumulated enough data, you can start to see where you shine (e.g. you are great at conceptualizing, but very stressed when writing the statistical analyses; you love the literature review, but hated the process of looking for them.) With that, you can better identify collaborators who compliment you.

Get your hands dirty: There are a lot to do, but these can be done in a long run, go prepared but don't spend too much time to over-prepare. At a certain point (when you may still mentally think "I'm not quite ready yet.") jump in and start.

  • very good post thank you , would you mind sharing a "1 and 5 year plan" template, would be interested to see what one can plan long term
    – fouad_shoz
    Jan 22, 2021 at 21:07

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