Wednesday, 21 December 2011


Posted by Jean Adams

Against my better judgement, I seem to have found myself leading a team developing a proposal for a call from the National Institute of Health Research on using incentives to encourage uptake of childhood vaccinations.

The application involves an on-line form with boxes for summary information on our project, CVs for each member of the team, and a detailed breakdown of the funding we are requesting.  There is also space to upload a detailed description of the research we are planning to do.

After spending far too much time searching through far too many guidance documents, I finally find what I am looking for: the detailed project description can be up to 20 pages.  Which means that the detailed project description should probably be at least 18 pages.  In the world of funding committees, blank space seems to be taken to imply blank brain.

So my next task is to draft 18-20 pages of detailed project description.

Somewhere else in the endless guidance I find suggested sub-headings.  Predictably, they are of limited relevance to the research that is being asked for.  An endless frustration in health research is that we are have to use systems designed from medical research – often drug trials – that just don’t fit what we do.

But I don’t have a degree in creative writing for nothing.  Actually, I don’t have a degree in creative writing at all.  Throughout my extensive, formal, higher education, I have been trained in writing concisely – in neat, legible, bullet points in medical records; in terse science-ese in journal articles.  No-one likes the written equivalent of verbal diarrhoea.  No-one except, perhaps, an NIHR funding committee.

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