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Proposals and Getting Funded

Proposals and Getting Funded. Michael Wysession Tessa Hill. A good source for information about Grant Writing : http:// serc.carleton.edu / NAGTWorkshops / earlycareer /research/ funding.html. Outline of topics. Develop a strategic plan for your research Writing proposals

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Proposals and Getting Funded

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  1. Proposals and Getting Funded Michael Wysession Tessa Hill

  2. A good source for information about Grant Writing : http://serc.carleton.edu/NAGTWorkshops/earlycareer/research/funding.html

  3. Outline of topics • Develop a strategic plan for your research • Writing proposals • Stake your claim • Professional synergies • Get to know your program officers • Writing proposals • Before you write • Writing the proposal • Myths about proposals (NSF) • Characteristics of successful faculty members

  4. Stage 1: Development Creating a Strategic Plan for Research Research theme:______________________ Topic A: New or Continuing Plans for obtaining facilities or instruments Available Resources: Needed Resources: Plans for recruiting students and collaborators Stage 2: Implementation What to do if not funded? Beginning Field Work or Setting Up Laboratory Conducting Research Writing Proposals Stage 3: Dissemination Formal Publications Web Sites Initial Presentations Ph.D. Dissertations New Research Ideas? Student Projects Honors & M.S. Theses Independent Studies

  5. Proposal writing (also see handout for tips) • No one single formula for success • Just as there is no one single “scientific method” • But there are good things to do, and things to avoid • This is not a research paper – the goals are very different, and therefore so should be the structure and format. • You are asking people to give away their money to you, to “invest” in you. You have to work hard to convince them that you and your project are worth it. • Learn to love reading • Practice writing

  6. Stake your claim • Let people know what you are doing! • Reviewers, panel members, and program directors should know of your work • Blow your own horn (at the right time and in “tune”, of course) • Publish papers, write proposals • Balance your time spent on activities that are complementary to your research and help maintain your reputation as an expert (reviewing proposals and publications, organizing workshops, presenting papers at meetings, being a journal editor, professional committees and boards, public outreach, popular media such as interviews for magazines or newspapers, etc.).

  7. Contact your Program Officer • Email a request for a time to call them • Seek them out at meetings • Build a relationship • Always do a review if asked • Volunteer to be on a panel • Always reference your grant number on everything do you (talks, papers, websites, etc.)

  8. Your Program Officer… Is a scholar in your field (usually) who knows what everybody is doing & is formative in directing the scholarship of your field; Can be permanent or temporary Coordinates & runs the review process Executes or makes funding decisions, depending upon agency policies Oversees grants, budgets, etc. Advocates for your field in competition with other research areas and budget priorities. Continues to work with you throughout your grant and is interested in your success

  9. Ask your Program Officer… (After doing your homework) Does your program fund this type of research? What are the program budget and success rate; how many proposals in a competition? What is the typical size of a successful ‘new investigator’ project in this program? What is the review and decision making process in this program? Are there special programs for which I qualify and how can I be considered for them? Are you aware of other agencies or organizations that fund this kind of project?

  10. Exercise: Professional Introductions • Name • Institution • What interests you? • Why it is important? Why should it be funded?

  11. Writing Proposals:Before you start to write Carefully read the relevant Grant program announcement …and again! Know what forms you will need and what department or institutional support you will need Know all relevant deadlines Know the exact formatting rules Know what the review process will be (ask your program manager) Know the criteria for evaluating your proposal Work with the budget/grant staff at your university & department to understand the process

  12. Writing Proposals: • Know your audience: mail reviewers, panel members, program officers • Remember --- the reviewers are as busy and overworked as you are, and are usually not getting paid for their reviews • Focus on the Big-Picture Important Scientific Question Being Addressed!! • Use a “Backwards by Design” approach • Start with a goal-driven science-driven question, and work backwards to determine what you will need to do to make it happen • Clearly State the Goals/Objectives/Hypotheses • Don’t make the panelist/reviewer guess what you are trying to do

  13. Writing Proposals: • Clearly define the hypotheses you will be testing • Define the experiments/modeling • Describe how the results of your experiments/models will support or reject the different hypotheses • Describe as many possible outcomes (and their implications) from your experiments/models as possible • However, do NOT predict the results of your study • If it is that obvious, why should they fund it? • Instead, use preliminary data to support your hypotheses • Make sure your project has no obvious avenues for failure • e.g.:, don’t make the second part of your project dependent upon a particular outcome or result from the first part

  14. Writing Proposals: Format • Follow the Proposal Guidelines carefully! • Due Date, # of pages • Pre-proposals? • Margins, point size, vertical and horizontal spacing • Use headings and subheadings to make your proposal more easily readable • Don’t use jargon or lots of acronyms. Be careful with math. • Spread out figures/tables/charts to try to break up text. Be conscious of layout and the aesthetics of the page. • The reader should be able to get the whole project from the figures and figure caption. • Color figures are OK, but suppose a reviewer prints it out on a B&W printer?

  15. Writing Proposals: Style • Write in such a way as to make it as easy as possible on the reviewer. Don’t make the reviewer work hard to read the paper • Write in a simple, clear, clean style. Eschew obfuscation. • Imagine that you are writing front-page newspaper stories (not rambling magazine feature stories). • Look at a front-page newspaper story. The main point is given in a headline, then in a secondary headline, then in the first sentence, then in the first paragraph. • Humor is delicate. Be careful with it.

  16. Writing Proposals: Style • The first sentence of your Abstract and Project Summary and Project Description should always begin with something like “We propose to….” • Repeatedly go through the exercise of: Tell them what you are going to say, say it, and then tell them what you said. • In each section, have a clear statement, perhaps in bold, that summarizes the main point of that section. • “The people involved in the project are…” • “The PI has demonstrated the ability to carry out this experiment by…” • “The hypotheses that we will be testing are…” • “The mechanisms that we will use to assess the success of our experiments are…”

  17. Writing Proposals: Establish your credibility • Reviewers comment on the competence of the PIs and if they have the capability to carry out the proposed project. • Provide results from prior research; 1-2 pages per 15-page NSF proposal • Don’t oversell yourself, but make sure that your strengths and abilities are there for the reviewer to see • An impression of competence is displayed by little things as well, such as taking a common-sense approach, the coherence of your arguments, attention to detail, citation of existing literature, lists of publications and accomplishments

  18. Writing Proposals: Establish your credibility • A great way to show competence is through pilot studies, demonstrations, test runs, etc. • If you will be doing computer modeling of data, do a test run with synthetic data to see the kinds of results you might come up with. • If you are doing lab work, show a set of experimental data • If you are doing surveys, do a small sample

  19. Writing Proposals: Citing Literature • Make sure that any papers that you cite are in your reference section. • Don’t pad the reference section with references that you don’t cite. • Don’t overwhelm the reader with references – there is no need to justify obvious statements with citations. • It is very important to demonstrate that you know the current literature and cite important/relevant references. • Cite studies that are close to your study, that provide external benchmarks and related measures. • Be sure to cite a references of potential reviewers.

  20. Writing Proposals: Structure • Follow an “Hourglass” structure, with 3 parts: • Rationale/Motivation • Why is this important? • Where are the gaps? • Specific Project • How will you fill the gaps? • Details of Proposed Work • Preliminary Results? • Timeline; Responsibilities • Plan for Assessment • How will you know if and when you meet your goals? • Broader Implications and Impacts

  21. Writing Proposals: TIME • Take the time to write a good grant proposal • Start early, and write in small amounts • Allow time to edit and revise; it is obvious if it is rushed • If you don’t take the time to write a good proposal, will you take the time to do good research? Why should they fund it? • What are the obstacles to you having the “Time” to write?

  22. Writing Proposals: Bio/CV • Biography should be tailored to each grant • Do not expect to be able to use one CV for all grant proposals • It should be edited with the specific goal of aligning as closely as possible with the project at hand • select highlighted publications, activities, etc., accordingly

  23. Writing Proposals: Budget and Budget Justification • Be as accurate and detailed as possible. Get bids or estimates (travel, publications, equipment, etc.) • Don’t hesitate to include line items for small things • Build in inflation for multiyear grants • Ask for what you need – do not underestimate. • The more justification you give (including actual research amounts), the less a program officer is likely to reduce your budget. • Utilize your budget/grants support staff for help & advice

  24. Writing Proposals: Project Summary • The Project Summary is NOT an abstract, but rather a summary of the entire project: goals, expected outcomes, hypotheses to be tested, methodology, participants, duration, cost, etc. • It is like a mini-proposal; The reader should have a complete understanding of the project from it. • Write this LAST, after everything else

  25. Writing Proposals: Suggesting Reviewers • Take this seriously! • Choose people who know your work, but are not direct competitors. • Be aware of conflicts-of-interests (collaborators on past projects, post-doctoral advisors, spouses, etc.). • Cultivate reviewers • Send them reprints • Invite them to give department seminars • Ask a senior colleague/mentor for a pre-review

  26. Writing Proposals: NSF • Intellectual Merit • How will this change our understanding of the world? • How do we know you will be able to do what you propose? • Does the project explore creative, original, or potentially transformative science? • Broader Impacts • Are there societal or public benefits to the research effort? • Will any publicly-accessible products, data sets, codes, educational materials, museum displays, media products, (etc.) be produced? • What educational opportunities are you providing? • Are you allocating sufficient resources to the broader impacts?

  27. Writing Proposals: NSF Review Process • Program Officer • Checks to make sure it meets basic criteria • “Peer” Mail Reviews (people like you!) • For NSF: aim for about 5 • Numbers AND comments important • Program Officer • Decides on which proposals to have panel consider. • Panel • Provides additional feedback for program. • Often helps rank proposals. • Some programs (AGS in NSF) do not use panels • Program Officer • Makes the funding decision.

  28. Take advantage of special opportunities Packard Fellowship http://www.packard.org/what-we-fund/conservation-and-science/packard-fellowships-for-science-and-engineering/ NSF CAREER/PECASE http://www.nsf.gov/funding/pgm_summ.jsp?pims_id=503214 DOE Early Career Awards http://science.energy.gov/early-career/ HHMI Professorships (for undergrad research) http://www.hhmi.org/programs/society-of-hhmi-professors Opportunities at your institution for early career faculty

  29. If you are funded! • Allow yourself one day of celebration, then go back to planning. • Use the funds wisely, with an aim toward future funding. How will this fund fit into your larger portfolio of grants? • Let others know of your project. Stake your ground.

  30. If you are not funded…. • Allow yourself one day to mope, • then go back to planning. • Assume that you will resubmit. (Think of baseball) • Read the reviews very carefully to determine if you can revise the proposal to meet their concerns. If not, is there another agency that would be better suited for it? • Take reviewer comments seriously (just like a paper) • Identify in your resubmitted proposal the areas of the proposal that are new/in response to reviewer comments

  31. NSF proposals – Myths and Facts • EOS article, 18 Dec 2012 (data are from Ocean Sciences Program, which is part of Geosciences Directorate) • Junior investigators have just as good of a chance of getting funded as their senior colleagues • For Broader Impacts, it is better to do one thing well then to propose a multi-faceted program for many different groups • 60-75% of proposals funded are first submissions; 20-22% are second submissions. Only 5-10% of those funded were third submissions!

  32. Complete your strategic plan worksheet What are some potential funding sources for this research? If funded, what is the timeline for this research?

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