One of the things that I advise graduate students and junior faculty members is to apply for grants early and often.
Scientists are always taught that writing grants is a career essential - and hopefully receive help from their advisor when getting started. Social scientists usually know that grant writing is important but may receive less mentoring. Students and junior professors in the humanities seldom pursue grant opportunities avidly -- even though being a recipient of grant awards provides a notable career boost.
A good rule of thumb for grant-getting is to start small. Look for little known opportunities that will have a better ratio of applicants to awards. Look for specialized grants that mesh with your research. For example, I recently saw this notice for the 2006–2007 Paul P. Fidler Research Grant.
The aim of the Fidler grant is to promote the development and dissemination of original research with the potential to have a national impact on college student success. I'm sure that many of you -- including those far removed from the field of education -- could tweak existing research interests to fit the aims of the folks doling out this pot of money.
Smaller grants, such as university-based funds, or grants in highly specialized niches, are easier to get but they provide more benefits than just the money. Later, when you apply for larger, more established grants you'll already have an enticing calling card: a successful track record.
The author of What Now? recently wrote about her ambivalence over whether to apply for a highly competitive NEH grant. Thanks to the great input from fellow acidemibloggers, such as Ancarett and New Kid, she has decided to go for it.
One of the main points made in response to What Now's post was that writing a grant helps you clarify and articulate your research goals. It also provides a handy external deadline that will get you to keep your rear on your chair and your hands on your keyboard.
What can you do to develop your grant writing skills? My favorite resource is provided by Joseph Levine of MSU via his Guide for Writing Funding Proposals. He also provides an annotated list of related links where you will find additional, excellent resources.
This is an area in which our academiblogging community could really work together:
What lesser-known or smaller grants would you suggest that folks check out?
What grants have you applied for an how has it gone?
I've got an idea to get you sharing your tips and resources: I'll present a prize to the best response to my questions. It will be the First Annual Academic Coach's Grant Tips Award and will consist of a $25 Amazon.com gift certificate!
The deadline for applications is March 15th.
Go for it!