An evaluation colleague once asked, “On an average, what is your grant proposal success rate?” I responded, “Probably, 20-30% but it varies on the competition.”
Meaning, if I write or contribute to say 10 grants per year, two or maybe three will most likely be awarded (receive funding) and/or reach the negotiation(s) stage.
Which also means, that seven to eight out of ten times, I/the principal investigator/project team in general will receive a formal “rejection” notice in an email from the grants officer of a funding agency.
Needless to say, the first reaction to that kind of email is almost always disappointment. (I am yet to hear from a PI who have said, “Well, we knew it was not going to be funded.” That’s a rather defeatist attitude in my honest opinion.)
Here are a few tips should you receive a note of rejection:
1. First of, (please) resist the urge to respond to the sender immediately — mainly because you are emotional. And more importantly, it won’t help.
2. Take a few days to “recover,” if needed.
3. Open the reviews document (either posted on the grants’ website or sometimes sent as an email). Closely and very systematically read each and every comment (I mean it).
4. If and when reviewers’ comments are extensive, I tend to prepare a cheat sheet with two columns: Comments/feedback received and Corrective actions/approaches to revise or change.
5. Meet with your team/PI/Co-PIs, and others as needed to discuss the comments/feedback in details.
5a. Do you want to revise and resubmit (R&R) should be one of the items to discuss among others.
5b. In some cases, the PI/Co-PIs may also want to set up a time to discuss the comments and any concerns for clarity with the grants officer — it really depends on the need and preference of the team.
5c. Again, no point in being angry “at” the comments and/or the reviewers. Remain focused on the plan of action ahead.
6. Plan your re-write(s). (Who takes which item to change, revise, discuss timeline, budget, etc). In may cases, one person may want to take the lead to make all edits and then share with the rest. (Again, it depends on the needs/preference and writing styles).
7. Pay particular attention to the grant’s format/style requirements (if they may have changed from the last time the proposal was submitted and if any comments were made about this issue).
8. Proofread, proofread, proofread.
9. Revise and resubmit.
Remember: All no (re-)submissions = 100% rejections.