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I find it increasingly difficult to motivate myself to write grant applications - in my case to raise money for a post doc fellowship.

It seems to me that all bureaus require descriptions and research plans tailored very specifically. This is of course their right - it's their money. I find it, however, quite difficult to stay on top of it. I spend typically 4-5 full time days writing an application (is that normal?), and spend a couple of days being quite gloomy and unproductive when a rejection letter comes, as a lot of heart went into it.

How does other junior researchers handle writing applications? Any tips for motivation? Do you work in groups, or do you have a specific nice routine with a friendly PI to go over it - I am of course discussing my application with various seniors. Some have good input, most just tell me: 'don't worry, you are bright, you will eventually get something'. What to do until that happens?

  • Break the writing down, similar to writing a thesis like my answer from here. Also, rejection is common in academia. You should not take it personally and don't let it slow you down. You're looking for one successful grant, so any time spent worrying about one unsuccessful grant is time wasted towards the one you do get. – Compass Feb 7 '17 at 15:31
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Depending on your field, and the kind of postdocs you are applying for, 4-5 days might not be enough time (for European fellowships such as Marie Curie, for example, I would spend maybe 2 weeks).

But as far as maintaining motivation, it is not easy. You have to keep in mind that there are a LOT of other bright people applying for these, and an important factor is always luck (who is chosen to review your application, and what specific things those reviewers choose to emphasize).

Best advice: Don't give up. Keep applying, at some point you will maybe get lucky. Until then, keep publishing, keep working. And remember, these big postdoc fellowships are not necessarily required to be a successful academic.

  • 1
    2 weeks for a Marie Curie applicaton, how do you manage that? – Herman Toothrot Sep 1 '17 at 16:01
  • @user4050 With lots of help, nothing else that needs to get done during those two weeks, and a well-developed research plan before you even go into it, otherwise forget it you'll need a month and a half. – Morgan Rodgers Sep 1 '17 at 18:10
  • it is nice to hear some feedback from other people, I feel like I have been in a cave for three weeks now and I am barely scratching the surface, it seriously feels like an endless task. – Herman Toothrot Sep 4 '17 at 17:02
  • I'd say 2 months minimum for any substantial grant (e.g. Marie Curie, ARC, NSF etc) that isn't a recycled proposal that has been rejected previously elsewhere. – WetlabStudent Sep 24 '18 at 6:11
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    @WetLabStudent Absolutely, my proposals have usually been about 35 pages of material that then needs to be carefully condensed to meet page limits. It can be done in a few weeks if you can concentrate close to 100% of your time on it, but two months is more practical. – Morgan Rodgers Sep 24 '18 at 18:53

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