Tips for Writing a Successful Grant Proposal Diana Lipscomb Associate Dean for Faculty and Research CCAS
Life Cycle of a Proposal Proposal submitted by ORS to Sponsor 90 days
Life Cycle of a Proposal Proposal arrives and is checked for appropriateness and compliance Not OK Proposal returned unfunded 30 days
Program Officer evaluates and selects reviewers Proposal sent to reviewers Life Cycle of a Proposal Proposal arrives and is checked for appropriateness and compliance OK 30 days
Life Cycle of a Proposal Reviews received Outside Panel meets and recommends proposals for funding 4 Months
NSF Merit Review Criteria Intellectual Merit Advancing knowledge and understanding Proposer qualifications (and results of prior work) Creative and original concepts? Conception and organization Resources Broader Impacts Promoting teaching, training and learning? Broaden the participation of underrepresented groups Enhance the infrastructure for research and education (facilities, instrumentation, networks and partnerships) Broad dissemination Benefits to society Typical NSF Panel Review Meeting
Life Cycle of a Proposal Not Recommended for Funding • Proposal returned with • reviews • summary of panel discussion 30 days (total time 6 months)
Your proposal rejected because of lack of funds Life Cycle of a Proposal Recommended for Funding Program officer determines which of the recommended proposals can be funded 60 days (total time 7 months)
Life Cycle of a Proposal Recommended for Funding Program officer determines which of the recommended proposals can be funded Congratulations! 90 days (total time 8 months)
Federal Sponsors • Federal agencies detailed requirements and forms. • Proposals to federal agencies are submitted by ORS. • Proposals to federal agencies generally will go out for peer review. • Some federal agencies have a mission and your research must closely match their interests (U.S. Department of Energy, NASA), while others are not, and you may submit a research project of your own creation (National Science Foundation, National Endowment for the Humanities). The U.S. Department of Education is a little of both—you can submit your project idea within one of their different areas of interest. • Federal agencies send reviews if a proposal is rejected. If for some reason you don't receive them, ask for them.
Non-Federal Sponsors • Most proposals to foundations or corporations are called "letter proposals", only several pages long, and will need to stress what you propose to do, why it is important, and how you will do it. • They generally do not send your proposal for a peer review but instead have a review panel. • Read their guidelines carefully to determine their areas of interest. If you and they "fit", submit your letter proposal if they do not list specific proposal requirements. • If you are rejected you may never know why. Reviews are often not sent.
Read the Request for Proposals! (RFP) • Do NOT deviate from the guidelines • Address all the points raised in the RFP
Parts of a Proposal • Cover or Title Page • Table of Contents • Abstract • The abstract should not be an abstract of the proposal, rather a self-contained description of the research that would result if the proposal is funded.
The Narrative • Write with the reviewers and panel constituency in mind • Write for both experts and generalists: • Need to show mastery of relevant content/areas • Need to avoid overloading readers with jargon and technicalities
What Reviewers Look For • Proposals that are organized. Make their job easier by exactly following the guidelines. • Proposals that they can understand. Avoid jargon. Keep your language as clear and concise as possible. Don't leave reviewers guessing, and leave nothing to the imagination. • Proposals that are pleasing to the eye. Think what you can do to counter a reviewer's "fatigue factor." They will frequently be reviewing from 20 to 50 proposals at one time. Small type and long paragraphs are seldom a good idea. Use plenty of white space, as well as bulleted items to catch attention • Proposals that someone else had read. Leave enough time to have your advisor and friends read and critique what you have written.
What Reviewers Look For (cont) • Proposals that answer the questions: • What is this person doing? (Many reviewers have complained that they were pages and pages into the proposal before they could winnow out the project.) • Why is it important? • Is it innovative? (Innovation is an essential ingredient in proposals today.) • How is this person going to do it? • Has this person made the case?
Basic Steps in Writing a Budget • (ORS will help you with this! Go to them early in the process) • Decide which budget line items are required by the project. • Price the items. Prorate costs to accommodate anticipated increases if a multi-year budget is included. • Review budget to ensure that it is complete and justified. • Typical budget items: • Salaries • Fringe benefits • Travel • Supplies • Publication Costs • Other direct costs (ex. photocopying, equipment) • Indirect costs or overhead
Budget Justification • Arrange by budget categories and briefly explain how budget items were estimated. • Details of salary and benefit rates, travel rates, equipment needs, supplies, and indirect costs are among the items usually included.
Do not give up! • According to NSF, one out of every four competitive grants you write will be funded • Decision not to fund, does not necessarily reflect on the quality of your grant proposal • Good people (even excellent people) can have proposals rejected, take rejection as a learning experience