A research grant is a financial award allocated by a funder to a specific research project.
Grants are allocated to a Principal Investigator (PI), as well as multiple Co-Investigators (CoI) in the case of collaborative grants.
The PI is usually the researcher at the origin of the project idea and is responsible for the general management of the project.
The CoIs assist the PI in managing the project and are often responsible for separate aspects of the work. The CoIs can be based in different institutions and bring complementary expertise to the one of the PI.
In contrary to Fellowships, grants do not include the salary of the PI and CoIs, who need to be already employed by a research organisation.
For this reason, postdocs, who are employed on fixed-term contracts, can not apply for grants as PIs or CoIs.
Grants often include the salaries of research staff who will be hired to carry out the research, such as postdocs. Postdocs can be "named postdoc" on a grant, which means that if the grant were to be awarded, the role would be theirs.
However, being "named" on a grant doesn't automatically imply that a postdoc was involved in developing and writing the grant, which is often the case.
To address this issue, UK Research and Innovation have created a new status for some of their funding schemes: Researcher co-investigator (RCoI). A RCoI is a person who is not eligible to be a PI or CoI, but who is significantly involved in the design and writing of the grant proposal. Postdocs can be RCoIs on applications. At the time of writing, this role was supported by the MRC, BBSRC, NERC and EPSRC.
Note that not being listed as PI or CoI on grants when you are a postdoc can actually turn to your advantage as having held such positions often makes you ineligible for some fellowships and new investigator awards.
You can get involved in grant writing in many ways: proof-reading drafts, generating preliminary data, writing part of the application, co-designing aims or part of the project, liaising with collaborators etc.
The benefit of getting involved with grant writing of course depends on your career plan. It is mostly beneficial for those seeking to become an academic PI, but can also be relevant in other sectors depending on the role considered.
Prepare for an academic career and improve your CV:
Secure future employment:
Designing and writing grant applications is very different than writing a paper.
Learning how to do it takes time and there's no better way to learn than to actually get involved in the process:
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