Grant Season Journal, Part 3: Resubmitting

Our President continues her series of columns with more invaluable advice for building a competitive grant proposal.

The topic for this installment: Resubmitting a previously declined application and how to prepare a convincing resubmission statement.

Last time, I advised you not to despair (too much) if your grant application is declined for funding. No one likes to be declined, but it is a sad fact that Wenner-Gren only has funds to support about 15% of the Dissertation Fieldwork and Post-Ph.D. Research grant applications that we receive.  However, the good news is that resubmitted applications have a significantly higher success rate than first-time applications. The simple truth is that applicants who seriously consider the reviewers’ comments and take the time and effort to rework their applications produce stronger and more competitive proposals.

To give you an idea of how significant this is, in 2011 the success rate for resubmitted Dissertation Fieldwork applications was almost twice that of first time applications (resubmissions = 23.0%, 59/257 applications; first time = 12.3%, 83/674 applications).

It is definitely worth the effort to resubmit – but don’t think that you will be successful if you simply resubmit the same application. Wenner-Gren puts considerable effort into reviewing proposals and we have a team of about 60 international anthropologists who help us do this. Our aim is to give constructive criticism to every applicant, and although you might not always agree with our funding decision, at least you know its basis.  It is also very important to us to make our decisions in time for you to meet the next application deadline if you want. Our aim is to get you funded and into the field as quickly as possible.

If you do decide to resubmit, you need to fill out a resubmission statement in addition to reworking the answers to the regular project description questions. The resubmission statement asks you to describe how your application differs from your previous submission and how you have addressed reviewers’ comments. You should view the resubmission statement as an opportunity rather than a drudge and make full use of the space provided. The resubmission statement  gives you an extra page to talk about your project and particularly to discuss how you have addressed the reviewers’ comments and how your project (and your thinking) has developed since the original submission.

Also, if you don’t agree with some of the reviewers’ comments, the resubmission statement gives you the opportunity to explain why. It is not necessary to agree with everything the reviewers say, but we want you to take all of their comments into serious consideration. Don’t think that you have to “satisfy” all of the reviewers.  We are looking for strong research proposals, not ones that seem to have been pulled in sometimes too many opposing directions by attempts to address everything said by the reviewers.

Some applicants provide a resubmission statement, but don’t change their answers to the project description questions in any substantive way. This is a mistake. We are looking for evidence in the body of the application that the project has been developed and reworked. Sometimes it takes time to “recover” from the reviewers’ criticism, but once you do, you will realize that there is a lot of helpful information in the feedback and serious consideration of this feedback will produce a stronger proposal in the end.

When you do resubmit your proposal, it goes through the same two-stage review process as first-time submissions. We try to send it back to at least one of the original reviewers. If it moves on to Stage Two, we also like to get fresh opinions on the research. So you can expect a combination of old and new reviewers. The most important point to remember is that we are looking for quality research — the review process is one way we hope to help you develop a proposal that ends up among the top 15% of the proposals we can fund.


  1. Saboor says:

    AnthonyAfter 11 straight rjeections I think I am done. I have been submitting papers to peer-reviewed journals since May 2009 and until today nothing has worked out. My tenure is now in serious danger. The point is that I do not want to fool myself any further,the brutal truth is that I am just not good enough. It is normal to find excuses, to complain about the peer-review system, but probably it is just me.The reviewers do not know who I am and they are expects; if my papers were truly good some should have been accepted for publication. The reality is that 11 different people, who are professionals, believe that I am not good enough, why should they be wrong? I think it is that more plausible that I am wrong.I am starting to think that my past has been a lie. The admission to a very prestigious PhD program, the positive remarks of my PhD examiners.I think that I have been probably very lucky until now. Probably I simply met nice people who wrongly believed that I was good, while in fact I am not.My school career proves my point. I have been a very strange student. Some teachers thought I was very good, some that I was very bad. I experienced getting the highest and the lowest grades. My results had nothing to do with my effort, I has always been very studious. In the past I believed that the teachers who did not value me were fool, maybe I was the fool.There was a time in which I thought that the system was unfair; I questioned the validity of peer-reviews and of the tenure-track system. Now I am ready to be honest: I was deluding myself. The tenure-track system is just there to make sure that people who seem to be good but cannot deliver, like myself, are kicked out.I have no alibi. My institution gave me enough time to work on my research. It is true that in my institution I have no one to share my work with, but it is also true that at this stage of my career I should be able to take care of myself.There is something very very sad about all of this. I am a very hard-working and honest person. I work as hard as I can and put all of myself into what I do. Nonetheless, it is not enough. Getting published is not about how hard you work, it is about how clever and original you are.I still have 2 years before I am up for tenure and to be honest what scares me the most is my determination and persistence. I know that I am a very strong willed person, but here is the problem: is persistence always a virtue? What if we delude ourselves that we can do something when we just cannot? We can try all our life to walk through a wall, but we will never succeed. I think that may be persistence is sometimes a form of dishonesty. In my case, I feel that I cannot accept being a mediocre scholar and will keep trying to prove others wrong. In the process I will kill myself with work, worries, and anger and then…I may still fail. I am sure you read stories about people who failed countless times but succeeded in the end. But what if it is also true that some people destroy themselves in trying and nothing is achieved. I read many times that failure is the key to success. Is that true? I know very brilliant people in my field who very rarely fail. I know stories of great athletes who knew only victories. Why should struggle be part of success?My struggle now is to reach the point is which I am truly totally honest. I am not looking to a strategic way to consider my situation, I only want the truth. A part of me still hopes that may be I am good enough. This part scares me; I feel this part is the voice of my delusion and dishonesty. I feel that this voice is the voice of arrogance, the arrogance of a person who refuses to see his limitation and to say: I am not good.

  2. Syntiche says:

    Great advice. In Canada, one can imusbert so there is a tricky decision about whether you were close enough that it really doesn’t need much work, or whether spending time on it might make a big difference.One thing I suggest to clients before they submit is to think about their research as a whole, over a longer term. If they have a sense of the bigger programme, identifying a specific project for a particular call is much easier. If you can’t do any of your programme without big funding, you are in trouble. The funding should enable you to do more sooner.Having that sense of a bigger programme can also help you identify smaller grants that could strengthen a big for a larger one. Having done some preliminary work often gives you a better sense of the potential (academic and non-academic) impacts of a bigger one. It also helps build the bigger team, provides evidence that you really can work together, and all those other things.

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