In clinical research, it is important to create a transparent research budget document in order for anyone to access the financial data of the trial. You may be wondering what makes a research budget document transparent. The goal of transparency is to provide information in a clear and easy-to-understand manner so that it is accessible from a central location or single website, is honest and accurate and is designed from the citizen’s perspective. A transparent research budget document requires researchers to explain, in detail, complex concepts to a variety of audiences. Clear, transparent budget documents help shape public debate and foreshadow future responses.
This may seem all too confusing, but here are some practical ways to produce a transparent research budget document:
Create a Timeline
First and foremost, a timeline should be established before the budget is even approved. This allows researchers and other people that are involved in the trial to voice their opinions in a timely manner. To be as clear as possible and avoid miscommunication, this process should start roughly six months before the budget is approved to allow sufficient time for all levels of input and review. Consider creating a gantt chart. Gantt charts are used for planning projects of all sizes and they are a useful way of showing what work is scheduled to be done on a specific day. They also help you view the start and end dates of a project in one simple and clear view.
Establish a Strong Message
Communicate the significance and importance of the budget to the audience. Establish a core message and easily explain where and how this research budget is being uprooted from. Start with an executive summary for your research budget. Keep it relatively short where in just two or three pages you can layout the most important facts. This by itself can allow constituents to gain a basic understanding of the clinical trial/research.
Write with Clarity and Simplicity
To make the budget document as transparent as possible it should be clearly written where the language is direct and the sentence construction is concise. A perfect transparent research budget document should omit unnecessary words, remove jargon, explain complex technical subjects, and include a glossary or index of terms that may not be known to the general audience. Budget documents are often hard to read and understand because it is a bunch of data being thrown around strangling reader comprehension. There is a right and wrong amount of detail that should be considered in order to promote transparency and not obscurity. Remember, quality over quantity. But what is the ‘right’ level of detail? A report should contain the evidence to support assertions, and highlight key trends.
Also, George Orwell sums this up pretty well by saying, “Good prose should be transparent, like a window pane.”
Keep the Document Structured
The entire research budget should be structured logically. This requires writers to have a good understanding of the research that is being done, the budget of the trial(s), and its key messages. Chapters should be concise, with logical headings and subheadings to guide readers through each section. There are many online software tools to help you organize your document, but a simple solution can just be Google Docs. The toggle bar allows you to change the style of the text where you can organize the text in order to make a heading, subheading, etc. Think about the reader. There is no central audience for the research budget document because it can range from fellow researchers, patients, government departments, students, as well as the general public. Therefore, the document should be written in a way that enables any interested reader to understand what is being said.
Provide Thoughtful Analysis
This is probably one of the more easier steps. Just like the beginning of the document, the end of the document should conclude a full and clear analysis of the research budget. The entire research budget has already been laid out and now all you have to do is write a summary to conclude the results. An analysis of the budget improves the utility and focus of the entire document.
Revise, Revise, & Revise!
Once the draft of the research budget is written, the editing and revising begins. You should be triple checking your spelling and grammar before submitting, and there should be multiple rounds of editing by creating and responding to comments made by various contributors from one team. Alongside having someone review your document you should also use editing softwares such as, Grammarly, to help you proof-read while writing the research budget document. This process should be the most rigorous and thoughtful stage in creating the most concise and error-free document. In addition to a revised budget document, make sure to have an attractive layout as it plays a significant role in how the reader engages with a report. With the use of sufficient white space, readable font, smart use of colors, and clear graphs and/or visuals – anyone can read and access the document with ease.
Haven’t quite got to the budgeting stage? If you need to learn more on how to create a research proposal worth funding, check out our previous blog.