During the holiday season, we encourage a philosophy of goodwill and decency. This includes the world of research. I know that the competition is fierce. I know that each of you is feeling pressure from your department to publish! And fund! And perform! And in my meek word, in a humbled voice, I cannot help but wonder if we are going about things in the wrong way. I feel as though we have created a broken system.

And so, I’d like to humbly ask one simple question:  Why are you submitting this grant application?

It’s a simple question, but you should know the answer—it’s your elevator speech, your 4-minute sales pitch, your go-to motivation. It’s important to understand why you are submitting—is it to advance your field? For the money to fund your project? For academic points? For competition and bragging rights? All of the above? While all of these necessarily and important things, sometimes our reasons get garbled and confused in the rush to get things submitted. It’s important to understand where our motivators are coming from and ensure that “good science” always comes first.

Reasons why you SHOULD submit:

  • “I have a completely awesome idea that is going to explode my field—They should make me keynote!”
  • “I have a great idea that my team has developed and it will impress my competitors in Germany!”
  • “Everyone around me thinks I have a great idea and my institution supports the project!”
  • “This Sponsor has made it their mission to end the disease I’m researching, we should team up!”

Reasons why you SHOULD NOT submit:

  • “I had this weird idea last night that might work, and oh look! There’s a submission deadline next week!”
  • “I really should try to get more work performance indicators points this year.”
  • “My competitor in Germany just launched a paper, I must immediately and senselessly retaliate.”
  • “This is a solid research plan, let’s send the same thing to every Sponsor and see what happens.”

Writing a grant application is hard. Keeping up and staying relevant in scientific research is hard. Nonetheless, it can be rewarding when you’re investing the time for the right reasons. I know that it is a cut-throat business, but in the spirit of the holidays, I’d like to have a Pollyannaish moment and encourage everyone to put their best foot forward, remember the patient behind the research, and always put good science first.

Share this post if you agree to put “Good Science First!”