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MU’s Grant Writer Network Recognized as a National Model

Network helped MU receive more than $251 million in grant approval

July 15, 2010

Story Contact(s):
Kelsey Jackson,, (573) 882-8353

COLUMBIA, Mo. – An average $1-million grant requires 400 to 700 pages of application material and takes 18 months to reach final approval status. At the University of Missouri, a network of grant writers who are trained in a central office and housed in individual schools and colleges help researchers tackle the lengthy grant application process.  Recently, the Advisory Board Company’s University Leadership Council recognized the University of Missouri Grant Writer Network as a model approach to large interdisciplinary efforts for American universities.

“Large-scale proposals require significant effort and expertise that often exceed the capacity of an individual researcher,” said Mary Licklider, director of grant writing and publications for the Office of Research. “It is not realistic to expect a faculty member who teaches courses, advises students and conducts research also to coordinate 20 people on an interdisciplinary grant proposal.”

Developed in 1999, MU’s Grant Writer Network provides a centrally coordinated group of professional grant writers who remain based in individual schools and colleges. As part of the network, deans can sponsor a grant writer by covering 95 percent of the writer’s salary while the Office of Research covers the other 5 percent. The grant writer is trained in the central office for up to a year and then placed in the school that sponsored the writer. The distributed network allows for specialization, encourages multidisciplinary collaboration and furthers the extramural funding agenda of the institution, Licklider said.

“MU’s Grant Writer Network has been useful to the university in many ways, from directly assisting principal investigators as they prepare major grants to providing an outstanding situational awareness across campus of who does what and at what level,” said Rob Duncan, MU vice chancellor for research.

MU’s Grant Writer Network embodies the interdisciplinary spirit of the Bond Life Sciences Center, Licklider said. Network grant writers include a nurse, an MBA, a math major, a nutrition scientist and a social psychologist. They bring their varied perspectives together for weekly staff meetings. 

“A grant proposal is an argument, and we want that argument to be bulletproof,” Licklider said. “Based in individual schools and colleges, our writers are able to have the ‘hallway conversations’ that are so crucial to writing a sound proposal. As a group, they collectively know a great deal about the research expertise on campus and can help to identify and facilitate potential collaborations.”

To prepare people who would like to enter this field, the MU Harry S Truman School of Public Affairs now offers an online grantsmanship graduate certificate that is open to students from any discipline. The four-course series helps students develop real-world skills in grant writing, sponsor relationships and grant award management.

“Grant writing is an emerging profession attracting people from different backgrounds,” Licklider said. “The certificate program addresses an unmet need for academically based training for grant proposal authors, principal investigators and project directors. The materials are diverse and can help employees in the nonprofit sector, as well as scholars and scientists in academia.”

For more information about the online grantsmanship graduate certificate, visit