Getting Started in In-House Grants Editing in Canada (Part 1 of 4)

So, you’re interested in editing academic research grants in-house at a university, institute, or research hospital. You have editing experience, good writing and communication skills, and maybe even an academic background. What next? That’s what I asked our four experts: Tara McDonaldAnnie MooreNandini Maharaj, and Brianna Wells

These four women all have doctoral degrees, so they speak from that background, but a PhD isn’t required to be a successful research grants editor—through some form of graduate education definitely helps. 

How did you find yourself doing this kind of work? 

Tara: I was struggling to find a position outside of academia when I finished my PhD. I let people in my network know what my skills were and that I was open to new fields of work. A former colleague from grad school sent me a job posting for a grant development specialist position in the research office at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH). After about a year and a half, I was promoted to manager of the grants team. Since I first got into grants administration, I have honed my skills through the CARA/Mohawk College Research Administration Certificate, as well as other professional development webinars offered by the Canadian Association of Research Administrators.

Annie: It was as simple as applying for a job posting! It was the first non-academic job I interviewed for, and the first one I’d applied for that felt like a good fit. I’ve also recently started my own editing business (www.themagicword.ca) for academic writing and grants. Think about all your skills and abilities—even ones you don’t think of as learned skills, and ones you didn’t learn through your academic training—and how those might translate to jobs (and for people) in other fields. 

Nandini: I had never heard of this work until I saw a job posting to support researchers in health and medicine. My PhD was in public health, so it seemed like a good fit with my research experience. Fortunately, the person who offered me the job saw the value of my diverse skills. But don’t be discouraged when you’re applying. I know someone who was rejected three times by the same unit before landing a job in grant facilitation.

Brianna: My partner and I were both in a period of career transition. I had just finished my PhD and was on the academic job market, which was terrible. We had an opportunity to come to Kelowna, and so I started to look for what could be possible for me here. This position at UBC Okanagan came up and I thought, you know, I really like working in teams. I like working with people. I like the ideas of research. And I thought, the beginning of a research project is probably more fun than the end. A month later I had the job and was moving here. It happened pretty quickly. It wasn’t a long-term plan to become a research development officer, certainly, but it seemed like interesting work and I have been correct—it is. 

I helped with a SSHRC Connection Grant when I was a PhD student, so I knew from experience how much work it would take to get all of a grant’s pieces in place. I also was awarded my own research grant for a side project that I started in my PhD; I was the author of that grant, and so I knew what it was like to walk in my researchers’ shoes, and that has been very valuable for me. I think makes it easier for me to do my job well. You don’t need a PhD to do this job, but having relevant lived and professional experience makes it easier to jump into your relationship with researchers and build that mutual trust.

Read the next post in this series: What Do In-House Grants Editors Do?

Read the previous post in this series: Getting into In-House Grants Editing in Canada: Getting Hired, Managing the Demands, and Reaping the Rewards

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