The mind of the PI: Hmm, this RFA looks interesting...looks like a shoo-in for ol' Horace. Wait, what's all this 'mechanism' bit at the back, blah, blah oh ho! Yun Gun could be a playa on this one! Ok, we're gonna be running for third place at least, might be a chance for one of the postdocs to get their feet wet, maybe end up with something revisable. Let's see here...Sarah got married a year ago, haha bet her clock's a'tickin'. And Bob's first kid is coming up on two, hmm, bet they're ready for another, being Catholics and all, haha. Xiao and Yevgeni work hard but oh man the English skills will be a nightmare, more work than worth. Helloooo Stock Critique. Damn. Maybe Steve? 'lthough he seems pretty pissed about Prop8, wonder if he'll be spending too much time on politics. Oh, well, I guess I better give this one to good old Joe Straight Whitey to work on.
So, for the real reason I am writing this to you today: please, dear senior researcher, I appreciate that you gave me a wonderful chance and believed in me. But for the sake of others that will come in the future: try to be responsible about asking people that are more junior and in their early careers to write proposals for you. Consider the situation they're in, and what getting this proposal funded or not funded might mean for them. Because for you, this is probably one of many, and it doesn't matter that much if one of them doesn't work out. For them, it's hopes and dreams and sweat and tears.
This is not a matter of a lack of empathy, as per one Stephen Curry in the comments. Nor a matter of the Arrogance of People Who Are Good At Things suggested by Cath Ennis. [Ed- why o why does the NN engine not have linkable comments!??!]
This is first and foremost a matter of equality. PIs should try to be sensitive to individual strengths and weaknesses in their trainees. Sure. But to decide that one postdoc can handle working on a grant and another simply cannot? That leads to bias my friends. A BadThing.
Second, there is an aspect of trial-by-fire in this. In the good way, not the hazing-for-no-reason way. You simply will not know what you are capable of until you've been thrown into the mix. The PI for sure will not know what you are really capable of. So why should s/he pre-judge or pre-screen trainees? S/he is almost certain to get it wrong...much of the time.
So this throws the burden back on the individual postdoc to make a keen assessment of whether to take up the opportunity to co-write (or fully write) a grant to be submitted under the PIs name. Do you really want someone else pre-determining if you are capable or not? I didn't think so...
While I recognize there can be highly exploitative situations I generally recommend postdocs should give it a try. First of all, given the above, you may find out that you are really good at this part of the job. Clear synthetic writing and communicating logical experimental plans efficiently may be something at which you excel. You may find that 'git 'er done' is in your toolbox after all. And best of all, you get to take your first lumps in grantwriting before it starts to really count in your career progress. Schweeet!