Grant Writing Assistance
Offered by the Office of the Vice Provost
January 2004, Issue 1

After the University decided to hire a grantwriter
with a strong background in science, a string of coincidences brought Sackler graduate M. S. (Peg) AtKisson here. AtKisson's 15 years of experience at the bench in fields as diverse as biochemistry, virology, and neuroscience, along with her exceptional writing and administrative skills, make her well suited to the task of grant writing.

In two years AtKisson has assisted in the submission of $17 million worth of proposals that have brought more than $5 million in awards to the University. "What I do primarily is focus on grants that serve the institution or large groups of investigators . . . such as core center grants and building grants," AtKisson says. Her accomplishments have included the new Dental School planning grant, the Institutional Review Board's Human Subjects Research Enhancements Program grant, and the construction grant for expansion of the Division of Lab Animal Medicine facility.

AtKisson schedules meetings among the key players on these large grants, which can include researchers and administrators as well as architects and engineers. She turns a group of individuals into a team whose goal is to get the grant funded. She makes daunting tasks manageable and sees to whatever needs to be done to get the proposal right.

AtKisson takes on the tedious work of scrutinizing the entire grant application. She advises key players about details to include and leave out and helps them organize the application. "Sometimes investigators give me bulleted text and I turn it into prose," she says. "Sometimes I write from scratch or use previous grants and research publications. But when I work with PIs, they're the PIs. I'm not going to tell them what to say, but I might tell them what I think is going to best serve the grant in terms of getting it reviewed favorably."

Principal investigators have been very appreciative of AtKisson's capable assistance. Sherwood L. Gorbach, MD, of the School of Medicine said that AtKisson ". . . added in a substantive way to whatever success we may have with this application, not only in the obvious matters of style and formatting but, more importantly, in the scientific arenas, entering into serious dialogues with the investigators about their ideas and concepts. This is a league ahead of the usual grant editing . . . ."

Every university needs someone like AtKisson who has her finger on the pulse of research. "The longer I do this, the more I know what everybody is doing, and I can draw lines between them," AtKisson says. She drafted a biodefense training grant for the School of Veterinary Medicine to provide funds for research time for DVM/MPH and MD/MPH students. Because she knew of a similar training program that the Medical School's Immunology Department had recently put in place for PhD students, she was able to include its faculty and course work in the Vet School grant, making it a much stronger proposal.

One of AtKisson's new projects is to create grant-writing seminars geared toward postdocs and junior faculty. She is starting with seminars on basic-science NIH grants and plans to conduct seminars on NSF grants. The Office of the Vice Provost will send out information about these seminars as it becomes available.

If you are planning or working on a major multidisciplinary proposal and would like to find out more about available grant writing assistance, contact Paul Murphy, director of research administration at (617) 636-3819 or (617) 627-3417.

For more information on the services provided by the Office of the Vice Provost, go to http://www.tufts.edu/central/research/Services.htm.

 

Tufts University, Office of the Vice Provost
Health Sciences Campus: (617) 636-6550
Medford Campus: (617) 627-3417
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