We should each write and submit as many proposals as we can reasonably manage with our other responsibilities, taking into account also
- funding rate, which is no doubt quite low,
- amount of typical grants,
- needs of the research group (e.g., number of advisees and others to support),
- types and sizes of collaborations involved in research,
- career stage (tenured?),
- time-management skills and proposal-writing ability/style of the PI,
- number of other important responsibilities in the weeks before a proposal deadline,
- health/family situations, and
- expectations of the job/institution (including whether you have to raise some of your salary), and
- number of awesome ideas for transformative research.
There is no point in stating, as one commenter did, that if you write n proposals (say, n = 3), you are shirking your other responsibilities, such as advising students and writing papers. Many of us routinely submit > 3 proposals in a year and manage to get other things done as well. We are neither superhuman or super-irresponsible; this is just the way things work for some people, in some fields, on this very planet.
If, however, you totally shut down a month before a proposal deadline and do nothing else but work on that proposal, and you do that 3-4 times/year, then OK, you can say that you cannot write 3 or more proposals in a year and still get other important things done. But other people can.
If any one proposal has a not-great chance of being funded, and if not being funded is not a good option, then you have to find ways to write lots of (excellent) proposals and do everything else.
In the past academic year, I submitted 4 proposals, 3 as PI; 3 were funded, 2 with me as PI. I got other things done as well. I didn't expect to get so many of these proposals funded, and since I have some existing grants as well, I am taking a break from proposal-writing. It won't be a long break, however, because soon it will be time to try to get support for new projects and people.
As I rummaged in the FSP archives, vaguely recalling an earlier post on a similar topic, I was interested to read that in 2008, I stated that
I have been PI on 3 ± 1 grants (+ others as co-PI) at a time..for most of the 21st century..
This is still reasonably true. I may have reached a mid-career steady state.
But enough about me. If your job involves proposal-writing, how many proposals do you write in a typical year?
In coming up with a number, I suggest combining proposals submitted as PI and co-PI but not count those involving only having a minor role as subcontractor or senior personnel unless you had a major role in all phases of proposal-writing. I realize that some co-PIs (or even PIs) don't play much of a role in proposal-writing as well, so just use your discretion in coming up with the number. You can count both external and internal proposals, but count the latter only if they require significant effort. I am trying to get a sense for how many substantial proposals FSP readers typically write (not just put their name on) in a year.
In the comments, it would be interesting if you provided additional data; e.g. specify n proposals, your field, and job title or description. What is your personal funding success rate?
And, if anyone still has time despite needing to get back to writing proposals, it would also be interesting to know if you feel you are writing as many proposals as you can or should. Would you write more proposals if you had the time?