Dear Self: Your application is brilliant!

January 27, 2010

In putting together a large grant proposal to an organization such as the National Institutes of Health, the usual rituals include rounding up letters of support from collaborators who agree to serve as unpaid consultants. As a courtesy, the principal investigator (PI) often provides the collaborators with a template to use in composing the letters, thus indicating the key points to be covered.

If one is collecting several of these letters, one must consider the possibility that one’s collaborators may not add to or alter the template as much as desired, leading to the potential embarrassment of having several letters signed by different people but clearly originating from the same source. To avoid such situations, one must then provide each collaborator with a rather different template. Although this can be difficult, a PI who is attuned to geographically based differences in language usage may be able to create a distinct voice for each collaborator.

For example, if one needs a letter of support from a British scientist, one might send him the following template:

Right, then — Plasmodium is a bloody dreadful pathogen, seeing as how it feasts on human haemoglobin and the like, and any twit can see that new remedies are needed. The UG Parasitology Centre, of which I am director, houses high-throughput screening and sequencing facilities ideally suited to Specific Aims 1 and 2 of your proposal. Our expertise in analysing these large datasets is also widely recognised. The Centre would be honoured to host any researchers from your group who wish to have a go.

If I may be of further assistance, just ring me up and we’ll have a chat.

God Save the Queen,

Nigel R Shillingsworth, PhD, FRS

Reader in Biochemistry

University of Gloucestershire



In contrast, for a colleague in rural Vermont, the following might suffice:

Them parasites seem wicked bad down in the tropics nowadays, but your plan’s a good one. Anything I can do to help, just give me a holler.

Ned Morgan


One comment

  1. this was VERY funny to read Greg! thanks. Good health to you and the family.

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