Grant Writing is the Bread and Butter of Research Administration

Sarah Musavi


I am very new to the field of Research Administration but my journey started way back in 1995, when I was still a Doctoral Student of Biochemistry in a lab in India. I could see myself in the field of health but I wanted to be close to people. I was not sure where this doctoral thesis would take me. In my search in those days of reading real magazines, I stumbled on an advertisement in the Science journal. It was about a new course at Temple University, Philadelphia, for Masters in Health Administration. It also showed a career path for doctorates to be laboratory managers. That really appealed to me and I was very motivated to somehow pursue that course. Eventually, in 2002, I was admitted to the Health Administration program at Dalhousie University, Halifax and as life takes its own course, I finally graduated from the Telfer School of management at University of Ottawa in 2006!

Since then, for some reason, I started getting contracts to research and write reports or write grants for healthcare organization. It was starting to grow on me because it was not what I had planned for. I was writing for Health Canada and even a report Accreditation Canada after a ministry-mandated audit report for laboratories after SARS in 2003. I did this as a student in the MHA program. It taught me a lot about a working in different labs and clinical safety. And 17 years later I imagine some very rigorous reports will be mandated by the ministry post-COVID19.

However, now as a student of Research Administration with a very generous scholarship from CARA, I am now excited to write grants, especially because doing a whole course in grant writing, I am so confident of the process. I know the different steps and the importance of needs analysis. As my course work, I wrote a grant for outdoor classroom from TD Friends of Environment that they give to schools. I am a community gardener so this was a project of love and learning. I worked closely with the teacher at Ridgemont High School, who has been running a health, gardening and nutrition project at the school. She was thrilled to get help to write a grant for the school so she can start an outdoor classroom. I enjoyed the process of fact finding, now armed with the right questions that this course had taught me. I knew exactly the different parts of the grant to emphasize and how to work on the budget. I understood the critical importance of building a grant writing team. The teacher, staff and principal all were able to provide me timely information because I was being clear in my communication.

The course taught me the importance of building a checklist when preparing to write. This became my reference tool in the process of writing. I learnt how to break down the writing to Needs, Goals and Objectives, Project description, Evaluation mechanisms and a sustainability plan.

The course was able to help me picture the grant writing process on a single page- identifying needs, finding prospective grants, developing a general proposal and budget, the importance of writing a letter of enquiry.

I think the most important learning was the emphasis on needs statement. By doing this course, this single piece of information was highlighted as a make or break part of a grant.

Thank You CARA!