How to Get Scientific Writing Editing & Consulting Paid For

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Writing is one of the most ubiquitous components of academia. You write to get grants, publish papers, and get promoted. Academic institutions are aware of the necessity of writing, which is why many provide professional writing services at reduced, or no, cost. But undergrad heavy institutions can skew writer expertise toward term papers and reports; writing services may only be available to students, not postdocs or faculty; or perhaps the exact services that you need aren’t available.

In these situations, you may need to look outside of your institutional offerings to find a writing consultant or editors. And we aren’t cheap :/ ….

The good news is that many institutions and funding agencies have ways for you to pay for this help WITHOUT reaching into your own pocket. Below are examples of ways to access funding for writing help. It’s largely organized by academic position (trainee vs faculty).But broadly speaking, consultants (e.g., editors) are allowable costs for almost all research grants!

Trainees (graduate students & postdocs)

  • Many graduate and postdoctoral programs offer mini grants and similar funding mechanisms for professional development activities (e.g., Science Writing Labs, webinars). Check the list of [Professional Development Funding Sources]{https://alliancescc.github.io/professional-development-funds/} that we’re curating for your institution. Don’t see it? Let us know.

  • Institutional seed grants and other small research grants usually consider consultants to be an allowable cost and will pay for help to either publish a paper or write another grant proposal (e.g., editing services)

  • Training grants, future independent research grants, and similar career grants often have a focus on professional development and will allow funds to be spent on such training activities. Some may only allow funds to be used for research grant proposal development; to be sure, check with the grant manager. See the “Faculty” section for more information on NIH trainee grants (e.g., NRSA, Ks).

  • Professional and scientific societies often have funds set aside for members to advance their careers. Check to see if yours have any mini grants for professional development available. Local and/or student chapters of such societies are also a good place to look for professional development funds. Remember, even if funds for individuals aren’t available, you can still ask about sponsored workshops or seminars. A couple of societies with professional development-related grants include:

  • Your PI/research mentor may have access to two types of funding. Their start-up/discretionary fund, which generally has very few restrictions, and any research grants. See the “Faculty” section below for more detailed information about the costs allowed by most NIH & NSF grants. Internal/institutional grants will vary.

  • Similarly, many departments and/or programs have a pot of discretionary funds. Ask your chair or director if you can receive a one-time professional development grant. Alternately, ask if they would be willing to host a professional development workshop/webinar for department/program trainees.

Faculty

NIH Awards

General Cost Consideration:

7.9 Professional Services Costs (i.e., Consultants)

Costs of professional and consultant services rendered by persons who are members of a particular profession or possess a special skill, and who are not officers or employees of the non-Federal entity, are allowable, subject to paragraphs (b) and (c) below when reasonable in relation to the services rendered and which not contingent upon recovery of the costs from the Federal government.

“(b) The necessity of contracting for the service, considering the non-Federal entity’s capability in the particular area. (i.e., your needs can’t be fully met by existing institutional support)

(c) The past pattern of such costs, particularly in the years prior to Federal awards.”

Researcher Career “K” Awards:

Including: Institutional, Individual Mentors & Non-Mentored, & Career Transition

12.8.3 Proposal Preparation Costs

“Mentored CDA programs provide support with a goal of leading to research independence for an individual. Since research independence is achieved through applying for other research support, consistent with these objectives, it is allowable for effort devoted to proposal preparation costs for subsequent research support to be charged to a mentored CDA award. This can be considered part of the awarded effort commitment of the mentored CDA or an increase to that commitment with the allowable salary provided as applicable.”

Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Awards:

11.2.9 Stipend and travel only.

Support of Scientific Meetings (Conference Grants):

14.10.1 “Consultant Services. Grant funds may be used to pay consultant fees, including travel and supporting costs (per diem or, applicable, subsistence).”

Grants to Foreign Organizations, International Organizations, and Domestic Grants with Foreign Components:

16.6 “Awards to domestic organizations with a foreign or international consortium participant may include 8 percent of modified total direct costs, exclusive of tuition and related fees, direct expenditures for equipment, and subawards in excess of $25,000. These funds are paid to support the costs of compliance with federal requirements.”

NSF Awards

PAPPG NSF 22-1 October 4, 2021

The PAPPG, in conjunction with NSF’s Grant General Conditions, serves as the Foundation' implementation of 2 CFR \S 200, Uniform Administrative Requirements, Cost Principles, and Audit Requirements for Federal Awards. If the PAPPG and NSF Grant Conditions are silent on a specific area covered by 2 CFR (S) 200, the requirements specified in 2 CFR \S 200 must be followed.

Chapter X - Allowability of Costs

All costs charged to NSF awards meet the requirements of the cost principles contained in 2 CFR (S) 200, Subpart E.

200.459 Professional service costs - See NIH Awards: General Cost Considerations (above).

Special Conditions apply to International Research Terms and Conditions:

Costs for professional and consultant services, including those who are members of a particular profession or possess a special skill and who are not officers or employees of the performing organization, are allowable when reasonable in relation to the services rendered and when not contingent upon recovery of costs from NSF. If not included in the grant budget, anticipated services must be justified and information furnished on each individual’s expertise, primary organizational affiliation, normal daily compensation rate, and number of days of expected service. Consultant’s travel costs, including subsistence, may be included. If requested, the grantee must be able to justify that the proposed rate of pay is reasonable.Additional information on the allowability of consultant costs is available in 2 CFR (S) 200.456.”

Ada K. Hagan, Ph.D.
Ada K. Hagan, Ph.D.
Owner, Lead Consultant

I am a microbiologist with a passion for making science accessible. I hope to use my background in communications and higher education to help make scientific concepts more easily understood and make the academy more inclusive to future scientists from all backgrounds.

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