Grant Seeking as a Creative Exercise

By Mike Mackert

Faculty are under a variety of pressures – produce great research, be outstanding teachers, make sure you’re doing enough service, etc.

Faculty interested in health communication also often feel additional pressure to seek and secure grant funding for their work. While I often feel that my life in grad school was a series of fortunate accidents, my experience working on grant-funded projects and contributing to grant proposals was one of the most valuable unplanned opportunities of graduate education. Basically I won the lottery, without even knowing I had bought a ticket, working with a faculty mentor who was a grant machine. That experience is one reason I initially launched the Health Communication Scholars Program when I had the opportunity to launch a new education program.

Still, it can be a challenge to find the bandwidth and energy to write grants. Institutional incentives are not always aligned with grant seeking. Is it worth my time to write a huge grant when I feel like I could do a meaningful project for less money and in a shorter period of time?

At a recent Dell Med meeting of the Department of Population Health, chair Bill Tierney made an important point that highlighted what I actually do enjoy about writing grants: it can be a fun and creative exercise!

He talked about cooking as an analogy. Conducting research is just following a recipe. Anyone can do that. Writing a grant is developing a new recipe from scratch. It’s about what could be. That is exciting!

So for all the faculty out there struggling to find the time, motivation, or incentive to apply for grant funding…  Remember: applying for grant funding can actually be a fun, creative exercise about what we could know about the world. And if we’re lucky we’ll get the funding to actually do the work.