Proposal Editing in University Research Administration

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This project presents a mixed methods analysis of proposal editing in sponsored research administration at U.S.-based universities. As sponsored research funding has become increasingly competitive, universities have sought to support

This project presents a mixed methods analysis of proposal editing in sponsored research administration at U.S.-based universities. As sponsored research funding has become increasingly competitive, universities have sought to support their faculty and research infrastructure by offering proposal editing services as a component of the proposal development process. However, the relative newness of proposal and research development as fields, combined with prior studies that show a general lack of research into proposal editing and faculty perceptions of proposal development resources, mean that these areas can benefit from additional focused research. This study aimed to answer two primary research questions: How do universities approach and offer proposal editing as a component of the proposal development process, and what are faculty reactions to editing services as a resource during that same process? The study consisted of two components: a survey of 32 faculty members' perceptions of editing services as an element of their proposal development, and interviews with ten research administrators and editors to discuss how editing services function within the proposal preparation process. Despite a small sample size and disciplinary homogeneity, the survey results showed that demand for institutionally provided editing services varies by research field and activity level, but that faculty showed noticeable interest in at least having the option of an editor reviewing their proposals prior to submission. Interview participants agreed that faculty who are new or early in their careers, along with faculty who speak English as a second language, are especially interested in receiving editing services. Editors themselves provide various levels of edit, dependent on their own backgrounds, editing timelines, and faculty receptiveness to the edits. When provided, edits focus on compliance and grammar, but deeper edits help academic styles of writing transition into more persuasive grant writing styles to strategically position the proposal. As proposal editing services become more widespread as a way of supporting faculty and increasingly proposal quality and success, universities should implement editing services according to faculty demand and needs. Careful implementation can ensure that editing services fully support faculty while making a meaningful impact on a university's research development strategies and goals.