The Fifth Season: Grant Season

Shortlisted for The Cancer Researcher-EACR Science Communication Prize

by Caroline Himbert

It is that time of year again: the line in front of the research center’s coffee shop seems to be way too long throughout the day, your department is as busy over the weekend as it is on a weekday, and nobody seems to have time for casual office small talk. All signs point to grant season in the research world.

The key aspect that leads to a successful research career is to bring in grant funding to perform the actual research, and, as we all know, it is not as easy as it sounds. Each season you and your lab members sit down and draw ideas on a white board in a way that only your team can understand, then, finally, decide on a study design that will be written in form of a grant proposal. This proposal should include as many details as possible and has to fit on a limited number of pages, the space of which is usually just enough to fit the Thanksgiving shopping list on.

“We still have a lot of time. The submission deadline is in three months,” is a phrase you might hear, but two months, 29 days and 23 hours later your team is running around trying to fix a last minute problem with the grant document before the principal investigator clicks “submit”.

grant season Caroline Himbert
“… you basically start living at the office while observing the exponential coffee and chocolate consumption increase.” GIF image created by Caroline Himbert.

We all love research and are convinced the research we are doing is the most interesting and worth the funding! However, it is not that simple transferring excitement about your research into a grant text. You want to make it understandable for someone who is not too familiar with your research interest but, on the other hand, you do not want to lose too much space writing about the basics.

The number of drafts can easily reach over 100 until the final version is approved by the principal investigator(s). Between versions one and 50 you can expect to work during normal business hours. Versions 51 to 99 are modified both in the office and at home. Once you start version 100 or above, you basically start living at the office while observing the exponential coffee and chocolate consumption increase.

The ultimate grant season survival packing list

I am a passionate backpacker and when I pack my office bag during grant season it reminds me of my packing list for a trip into the wilderness. Below I have provided the ultimate grant season survival packing list:

  • Sleeping pad
  • Sleeping bag
  • Pillow
  • Pajamas
  • Toothbrush and toothpaste
  • First aid kit (you never know)
  • Spare outfit
  • Snacks (specifically do NOT forget the chocolate)
  • Vitamin D supplements (because, as of now, we do believe Vitamin D triggers cancer-protective effects)
  • Headlamp (some buildings turn the lights off past midnight)
  • List of food delivery services in town

“The ultimate inspiration is the deadline” – Nolan Bushnell

About the author

Caroline Himbert is a PhD student in the Department of Population Health Sciences at the University of Utah and Huntsman Cancer Institute, Salt Lake City, USA under the supervision of Prof. Dr. Cornelia Ulrich. Her research focuses on lifestyle and biological factors in cancer prevention and prognosis, particularly colorectal and lung cancer. She is an EACR member and EACR Ambassador.

About this article

This is one of our shortlisted entries for The Cancer Researcher-EACR Science Communication Prize. Choosing a winner was incredibly difficult and we’re delighted to be able to share our amazing shortlist here.