Leonid Churilov Geoff Donnan Julie Bernhardt Brenda Booth Dominique Cadilhac

Lin Ong Di Marsden Dana Wong Linda Worrall

by Dr Karen Borschmann

The 28-29th of June was set aside for a grant development workshop, run by the Centre of Research Excellence (CRE) in Stroke Rehabilitation and and Brain Recovery. Dr Karen Borschmann, program manager for the AVERT Early Intervention Research Program, shares her insights from the event. Karen’s research focuses on changes to the musculoskeletal and cardiovascular system after stroke, and how physical activity can improve outcomes by modulating these areas.

How was the grant development workshop structured?

Approximately fifteen future leaders in stroke research were invited to a workshop down at Werribee mansion (a beautiful place for a conference!) to have time away from the office where you could focus purely on grant writing. The idea came from a five day intensive workshop completed by Professor Julie Bernhardt in the USA. Senior researchers affiliated with the CRE acted as mentors for the early and mid-career participants, and we also heard from Brenda Booth, a stroke survivor.

On the first morning, the mentors gave short presentations about various aspects of grant writing, followed by breakout sessions where researchers could have twenty minutes one-on-one with the mentors to receive specific feedback on their grants. We spent time throughout the days rewriting our grants, then at the end we each gave a three minute pitch of our research, with a discussion on what we had learnt and how things had changed.

 What were the key tips that you learned at this workshop?

  1. Nail the first page by offering the problem, solution and the methods up front. I tend to give too much background, and the mentors’ feedback helped me to write like a journalist by giving the key information early.
  2. Hook the reader within the first three lines – make reviewers interested to read your grant.
  3. Less is more – break up large slabs of writing with images and white space so that it is appealing to the reviewer.

What were the highlights of the workshop?

The highlight was having dedicated time to work on a grant, surrounded by expert advice. What I learnt won’t just be useful for this grant – it will be helpful for my whole career. The mentoring helped me to target my question and gave me a range of perspectives. Sometimes our focus becomes narrowed, but the range of perspectives from mentors allowed me to see it from a wider viewpoint and a community perspective. This workshop has helped me to target my writing, which I expect will help me to be more competitive in grant rounds. As funding is the golden key to success in research, hopefully it will help me to get on with doing some of the really interesting and important research that I’m planning!