RD: Editing a Grant Proposal

Make suggestions to strategically improve the research portions of a grant proposal


The Research Development group (RD) in any organization is mainly tasked with helping scientists and scientific groups reach their research goals through attracting funding and increasing institutional competitiveness. They accomplish this by strategically developing partnerships within their institution and across institutions in addition to establishing and maintaining relationships with funding agencies and sponsors.

Most research institutions, including universities, use RD groups to help them strategically apply for funding so that applications are sent to the appropriate grant agencies and funds are distributed throughout the institution in an efficient manner. While university-wide RD groups are focused on programs and funding efforts across the institution, department-specific RD groups at a university will often engage in developing programs on a smaller scale to help support funding efforts such as writing workshops and are able to help junior faculty find and obtain their first grant.

When RD participates in the development of a large grant, they will likely find themselves providing strategic advice and hands-on support to write and edit portions of the proposal. This job simulation focuses on the grantsmanship aspect of supporting proposal development.

The Process for Supporting Grant Proposal Writing, Editing, and Submission:

When an RD professional helps a PI with the grant proposal process, they may do any of the following:

    • Meet with the faculty to discuss the status of the proposal, the RFA, and what services you offer.
    • Research the RFA (Request for Applications) and identify key components. 
    • Determine whether all the required components for the proposal are included.
    • Provide templates and help develop subsections of the proposal. 
    • Provide project management support to meet the RFA deadline and coordinate with Research Administration for budget approval. See Project Management simulation.
    • Edit and make suggestions as needed- basic writing, structure, content, format. (Task 2 below)
  • Hold meetings with the PI, and Research Administration to review major changes and make suggestions.

Once the grant proposal is finalized, the RD professional may also help the PI work with the Research Administration group at their university to get final approval and to submit the proposal.

Your role:

You are an intern at a state university’s Plant Biology Department Research Development group.

The exercise:

Make edits and suggestions on the research portion of a grant proposal.

Large grant proposals can have research portions of 12 or more pages and contain multiple subsections. For the purposes of this job simulation, you will focus solely on the research portion of a postdoctoral grant application.

Task 1: Review the RFA

Read the RFA for the Life Sciences Research Foundation (LSRF) postdoctoral fellowship, and identify requirements for the submission.

Task 2: Make edits to the proposal

Download a copy of the draft of the research component of the proposal and make trackable edits and/or comments using a word processing program such as Google Docs or Word.

This may not be your area of study, but that’s okay. RD professionals are often asked to review research proposals that cover broad areas of science, and provide input for proposals that are not directly in their field of expertise. Their goal is to help the researchers focus on communicating clearly.

Use the following guide to make edits to the proposal:

    • Basic writing – grammar, spelling, and format edits.
    • Structural – Is the proposal is in a familiar structure for a reviewer? (e.g., the right number of specific aims, clearly formatted sections)
    • Content – Are all the required components in the proposal? Does the proposal read easily and clearly? (e.g., is the most important point of a paragraph at the beginning?) Impact – Is the proposal presented in the best possible light?
  • Formatting – Is the proposal in the specified format required in the RFA? (e.g., font size for figures)

If you want more guidance on how to edit the proposal, review the General Resources section below.

When you have finished your deliverable, compare it to the final version that was funded by the LSRF.

The Deliverable

For Task 1 – list relevant criteria that you’ll use when editing the grant. For example, here are the relevant portions from the website:

  • Three-year fellowships will be awarded on a competitive basis to graduates of medical and graduate schools in the biological sciences holding M.D., Ph.D., D.V.M. or D.D.S. degrees. Awards will be based solely on the quality of the individual applicant’s previous accomplishments, and on the merit of the proposal for postdoctoral research.
  • The entire section titled “Research Proposal “

The deliverable for Task 2 is an edited version of the proposal that shows your changes and suggestions/comments.

As an intern, you would likely review your suggestions and comments with your supervisor or mentor before crafting an email to the scientist with your suggested edits. If major revisions are suggested, consider asking for a meeting to continue the revision process.


Skills used to perform this task:

  • Technical editing (requires understanding scientific principles)
  • Scientific knowledge (how to judge “good” research)
  • Ability to distinguish important points from complex information

Note: Practice your grantsmanship skills by asking colleagues and faculty if you can review the specific aims of their next grant application. Try reviewing applications from colleagues not in your area of expertise.

Skills used in the Research Development field:

  • Technical writing and editing
  • Scientific knowledge (how to judge “good” research)
  • Project management
  • Creativity
  • Verbal and written communication – especially with those in more senior positions
  • Organization and time management
  • Confidence to assert yourself as part of the team

Additional tasks in Research Development:

A professional in the field of Research Development may also perform these tasks:

  • Research an RFA or funding opportunity
  • Coordinate a proposal and create a timeline
  • Draft Sections of a Grant Proposal
  • Identify and communicate funding opportunities
  • Manage and define intramural funding
  • Research team building
  • Research marketing
  • Liaise with funding institutions and sponsors
  • Communicate research and research opportunities internally and externally
  • Facilitate collaborations within and between institutions
  • Develop tools and spaces to foster collaborations ie. online, symposia, workshops

Learn more about Research Development from the National Organization of Research Development Professionals – NORDP.

You are viewing a job simulation. To get started, set up SMART Goals to perform this simulation in a reasonable timeline. If you have completed the task, fill out the Self-Reflection Sheet.

Simulation author – Linet Mera, PhD

Simulation vetted by RD professionals at Stanford University