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Hints on Writing a Successful Grant Application

Tips for Success


Applicants should state 3–5 specific aims and state the hypothesis, where relevant, upfront. Reviewers will be asking themselves the following questions when they read each application:

Research Award:
  • Is the hypothesis clear?
  • Will the hypothesis be tested?
  • Will the experiments be performed and interpreted carefully?
Fellowship Project Award:
  • Is the applicant clear about what they will be doing over the course of the year in terms of their research and clinical program?
  • Is the applicant clear about how the training will improve their skills and abilities when treating patients with retinal diseases?


Applicants should acknowledge competing hypotheses, funding opportunities and time constraints. What are the pitfalls of the approaches proposed?

Attention to Detail

Applicants should carefully check the Letter of Intent (LOI) and Full Proposal for errors, e.g. references not correlating with text, spelling mistakes, etc.

Timelines and Resources

  • Start early! An applicant should notify his or her own institute's administrators that he or she is making an application well before the application is due. Internal institutional approval is often multi-layered and can be very time consuming.
  • The application should be unread for at least a week so the applicant reviews it with fresh eyes just before submission.
  • The applicant should use all his or her institute's resources.

The Budget

  • Ask for the minimum amount of money you need to do the work. If you overestimate the budget, the reviewers are likely to cut it by more than the overestimation.
  • If you are just beginning as an independent investigator, do not ask for the maximum amount. Show the Grants Review and Awards Committee that you can complete a good small project in the first instance.
  • Make certain your application is internally consistent. Your budget must agree with the activities you propose.
  • Justify everything. Do not assume that anything will be obvious to the reviewer.
Authorised expenses: Salary, equipment and supplies necessary to fulfill the project's aims; travel expenses directly related to the implementation of the project; costs associated with the publication of the research.

Unauthorised expenses: Salaries, travel and/or housing related to sabbaticals; purchase or rental of office equipment; fees for tuition*; membership dues, congress/meeting registrations, subscriptions, books or journals*.

*Only applicable to the Research Award

Personnel: Justify the amount of effort you propose to spend on the project; less than 20% raises concerns about your commitment. Indicate in detail how each salaried person (including yourself) will contribute to the project, including their experience and established expertise.

Consultant expenses: The request should be minimal and very well justified.

Equipment: Justify why you need each requested piece of equipment.

Supplies: Ensure your proposal will make efficient use of supplies and labour. Think carefully about all the activities you will need to do to accomplish your objectives, and plan your supply budget accordingly.

Additional funding: It is permissible for a project to receive additional funding from another source. However, this information must be provided on the full application form.

Institutional overhead payments: Applicants may request institutional overhead payments. It is important to note that any institutional overhead payments will be paid out of the amount funded, not in addition to it.

Final Comment

Ensure that you read all sections of this website thoroughly before completing an LOI or Full Proposal. It is highly likely that if you have any questions concerning the program, the answer will be found within the site. If not, contact the program Administrator for further clarification.

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