Grant Writing Costs and Benefits

A new study of grant-writing costs and benefits finds that academics who wrote more grant applications did receive more funding for research. The study surveyed 195 researchers active in applying for federally funded grants between 2009-2012.

The survey found that

  • academics who wrote more grants received more funding;
  • participants indicated modest non-monetary benefits from grant writing, such as developing new collaborations, generating new ideas, and organizing research efforts among others;
  • data from a prior survey revealed faculty at public universities, private universities, public four-year colleges, and private four-year colleges spend an average of 10.7, 14.5, 5.6, and 5.7 hours per week on research and scholarly writing during the teaching semesters, respectively;
  • the time a PI invests in writing a proposal was positively correlated with the hours spent by the remainder of the proposing team, yet reported hours of effort were not related to whether the grant was funded;
  • agency-wide funding rates at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Science Foundation (NSF) since 2010 were 18–21% and 22–24%, respectively;
  • researchers who have enjoyed recent proposal success face substantially better odds than the current base rate, and researchers who have not had recent success face substantially worse odds;
  • even among highly capable researchers with productive teams, 50% were unable to obtain funding in a current cycle;
  • study participants wrote an average of one grant proposal per year;
  • writing one proposal per year to agencies with funding rates of 20% would lead to 51% of applicants receiving no funding after three years of effort;
  • funding decisions are based to a substantial degree on chance;
  • investigators should consider avoiding proposing to programs with funding rates at or below 20% unless they are confident that their research program has a greater-than-baseline chance of success or they are willing to write two or more proposals per year;

To read the full article, see

To Apply or Not to Apply: A Survey Analysis of Grant Writing Costs and Benefits