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TAMUC Proposal Writing Workshop If you dont write grants, you wont get any


Social & Behavioral Sciences & Education Funding Agencies (NSF, NIH, DoED, HHS) ... Lucy Deckard, New faculty initiative, fellowships, physical science-related ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: TAMUC Proposal Writing Workshop If you dont write grants, you wont get any

TAMU-C Proposal Writing Workshop If you dont
write grants, you wont get any
  • Presented by Mike Cronan, PE, Director, Office of
    Proposal Development, Texas AM University
  • Introductory Tips on Proposal Writing
  • Social Behavioral Sciences Education Funding
    Agencies (NSF, NIH, DoED, HHS)
  • Developing Partnerships in Math, Science
  • Research Funding Advice Strategies for Junior
    Faculty, or Faculty Transitioning Research to New
  • 830 to 230 (lunch will be served)
  • 230 to 430 Individual PI meetings with Mike
  • Mayo Room, 2rd floor, Memorial Student Center
  • OPD WEB http//opd.tamu.edu/

Office of Proposal Development
  • Unit of Vice President for Research Office
  • Supports faculty in the development and writing
    of research and educational proposals
  • center-level initiatives,
  • multidisciplinary research teams,
  • research affinity groups,
  • junior faculty research,
  • diversity in the research enterprise.

Office of Proposal Development, OPD-WEB
  • OPD-WEB (http//opd.tamu.edu/) is an interactive
    tool and faculty resource for the development and
    writing of competitive research and educational
    proposals to federal agencies and foundations
  • Funding opportunities (http//opd.tamu.edu/funding
  • Junior faculty support (http//opd.tamu.edu/resou
  • Proposal resources (http//opd.tamu.edu/proposal-r
  • Grant writing seminars (http//opd.tamu.edu/semina
  • Grant writing workbook (http//opd.tamu.edu/the-cr
  • PI Observations

Members, Office of Proposal Development
  • Jean Ann Bowman, ecological and environmental
    sciences/ agriculture-related proposals and
    centers, jbowman_at_tamu.edu
  • Libby Childress, Scheduling, resources, training
    workshop management, project coordination,
  • Mike Cronan, center-level proposals, AM System
    partnerships, new proposal and training
    initiatives, mikecronan_at_tamu.edu
  • Lucy Deckard, New faculty initiative,
    fellowships, physical science-related proposals,
    equipment and instrumentation, interdisciplinary
    materials group, OPD web management
  • John Ivy (June 1), biomedical health related
    initiatives, NIH
  • Phyllis McBride, craft of proposal writing
    training, NIH and related agency initiatives in
    the biomedical, social and behavioral sciences
    editing and rewriting, p-mcbride_at_tamu.edu
  • Robyn Pearson, Education, social behavioral
    sciences, and humanities-related proposals,
    interdisciplinary research groups, editing and
    rewriting, rlpearson_at_tamu.edu

Presenter Background
  • Mike Cronan, P.E., has 15 years experience at
    Texas AM University in planning, developing, and
    writing successful center-level research and
    educational proposals.
  • Author of gt 60 million in System-wide proposals
    funded by NSF Texas AMP, Texas RSI, South Texas
    RSI, Texas Collaborative for Excellence in
    Teacher Preparation, CREST Environmental Research
    Center, Information Technology in Science, CLT.
  • Named Regents Fellow (2000-04) by the Board of
    Regents for his leadership role in developing and
    writing NSF funded research and educational
    partnerships across the AM System.
  • B.S., Civil Engineering (Structures), University
    of Michigan, 1983
  • M.F.A., English, University of California,
    Irvine, 1972
  • B.A., Political Science, Michigan State
    University, 1968
  • Registered Professional Engineer (Texas 063512,
  • http//opd.tamu.edu/people

Open Forum, QA Format
  • Audience is encouraged to ask questions
  • Audience questions will help direct, guide, and
    focus the discussion on proposal topics.

Generic Competitive Strategies
  • Understanding the mission, strategic plan,
    investment priorities, culture, and review
    criteria of a funding agency will enhance the
    competitiveness of a proposal.
  • Knowledge about a funding agency helps the
    applicant make good decisions throughout the
    entire proposal development and writing process.

Analysis of the funding agency
  • Know the audience (e.g., program officers,
    reviewers) and the best way to address them.
  • Identify a fundable idea and characterized it
    within the context of the agency research
    investment priorities.
  • Communicate your passion, excitement, commitment,
    and capacity to perform the proposed research to
    review panels.

Develop Agency Specific Knowledge Base
  • Electronic Funding Alert Services / Email Alerts
  • http//opd.tamu.edu/funding-opportunities/electron
  • Grants.gov
  • http//www.grants.gov/
  • http//www.grants.gov/search/subscribeAll.do
  • http//opd.tamu.edu/funding-opportunities/electron
  • NIH National Institutes of Health Listserv
  • http//grants.nih.gov/grants/guide/listserv.htm
  • U.S. Dept. of Education, EDINFO
  • http//listserv.ed.gov/cgi-bin/wa?A1ind05Ledinf

Writing a competitive proposal
  • Preparing to write
  • Developing hypothesis research plan
  • Preliminary data background data
  • Writing the proposal

Preparing to write a competitive proposal
  • Develop a sound, testable hypothesis
  • Ask other faculty to review proposal for
    competitiveness of ideas and appropriateness to
  • Understand the program guidelines (RFP)
  • Relationship with program officers (e.g.,
  • Understand funding agency culture, language,
    mission, strategic plan, research investment
    priorities (e.g. NIH Roadmap, NSF Strategic Plan)
  • Understand the agency review criteria, review
    process, review panels (http//opd.tamu.edu/pro

Developing the hypothesis research plan
  • Review research currently funded by an agency
    within your research domain (e.g., reports,
  • Communicate your research passion and capacity to
    perform to reviewers
  • Know your audience (e.g., agency, program
    officers, reviewers)
  • Explain how your research fits the agency
  • Support claims of research uniqueness and
  • Build on your research expertise
  • Do not present overly ambitious research plans

Preliminary data background data
  • Present evidence of research readiness to show
    the proposed work can be accomplished
  • Present evidence of institutional support for the
    research (e.g., facilities, equipment
  • Know what counts as preliminary and background
    data and how much is sufficient
  • Map your research directions and interests to
    funding agency research priorities (e.g. NIH

Writing the proposal
  • Tell a good story grounded in good science that
    excites the reviewers and program officers
  • Ensuring the proposal is competitive for funding
  • Proposal Form
  • Use program guidelines as a proposal template
  • Good writing, clear arguments, reviewer friendly
    text (dont make reviewers work), organization,
    figures, etc.
  • Proposal Content

If you dont write grants, you wont get any
  • Important to have your proposal targeted. Look
    for the intersection of
  • where research dollars are available
  • your technical interests and
  • where you can write a competitive proposal within
    the time you have available.
  • Researchers have a lot of great ideas but if not
    in scope of the agency it will not be funded
  • For proposals that have RFPs, or others that are
    blue sky, unsolicited research, the key is to
    have a good idea that you are enough of an
    entrepreneur to sell someone else that it is a
    good idea and worthy of funding.

If you dont write grants, you wont get any
  • Get someone who writes well to read your proposal
    for coherence and hook and to review the
  • Remember your reviewers are broader in scope than
    your one proposal and if you get too technical
    you get too many reviewers that dont understand
  • Some think if you submit your best idea it will
    be stolen but if you submit your second best idea
    it wont be funded .

Elements of a Successful Proposal
  • Relates to purposes goals of the applicant
  • Adheres to the content and format guidelines of
    the applicant agency.
  • Establish your major points succinctly
  • Directed toward the appropriate audience--i.e.,
    those who review the proposal.
  • Write for technically diverse reviewers
    intelligent readers, not experts
  • Avoid unnecessary complexity and technical

Elements of a Successful Proposal
  • Addresses the review criteria of the funding
  • Interesting to read compelling ideas conveys
    excitement to reviewers.
  • Uses a clear, concise, coherent writing style,
    free of jargon, superfluous information, and
    undefined acronyms -- i.e., easy to read.
  • Organized in a logical manner that is easy to
    follow use RFP as an organizational template.
  • Use of figures, graphs, charts, and other
  • Proofread so it is free of grammatical errors,
    misspellings, typos.

Elements of a Successful Proposal
  • Clear, concise, informative abstract that stands
    alone and serves as roadmap to the narrative.
  • Clearly stated goals and objectives not buried in
    a morass of dense narrative densely formatted.
  • Clearly documents the need to be met or problems
    to be solved by the proposed project.
  • Indicates that the project's hypotheses rest on
    sufficient evidence and are conceptually sound.
  • Clearly describes who will do the work (who), the
    methods that will be employed (how), which
    facilities or location will be used (where), and
    a timetable of performance outcomes (when).

Elements of a Successful Proposal
  • Justifies the significance and/or contribution of
    the project on current scientific knowledge.
  • Includes appropriate and sufficient citations to
    prior work, ongoing studies, and related
  • Establishes the competence and scholarship PI
  • Does not assume that reviewers "know what you

Elements of a Successful Proposal
  • Makes no unsupported assumptions.
  • Discusses potential pitfalls alternative
  • Plan for evaluating data or the success of
  • Is of reasonable scope not overly ambitious.
  • Work can be accomplished in the time allotted.
  • Demonstrates that PIs and the organization are
    qualified to perform the proposed project
  • Does not assume that the applicant agency "knows
    all about you."

Elements of a Successful Proposal
  • Includes vitae which demonstrate the credentials
    required (e.g., do not use promotion and tenure
    vitae replete with institutional committee
    assignments for a research proposal.)
  • Documents facilities necessary for the success of
    the project.
  • Includes necessary letters of support and other
    supporting documentation.
  • Includes a bibliography of cited references.

Elements of a Successful Proposal Budget
  • Has a budget which corresponds to the narrative
    all major elements detailed in the budget are
    described in the narrative and vice versa.
  • Has a budget sufficient to perform the tasks
    described in the narrative.
  • Has a budget which corresponds to the applicant
    agency's guidelines with respect to content and
    detail, including a budget justification if
  • The forgoing list was collected from various
    sources, including Rebecca Claycamp, assistant
    chair, Department of Chemistry, University of

Social Behavioral Sciences Education Funding
Agencies (NSF, NIH, HHS, DoED)
  • Gain a better understanding of each agency
  • Agency cultures
  • Competitive strategies
  • Comparisons among and between agencies
  • Review processes
  • Strategies for developing multidisciplinary

Types of Research Agencies Research
  • Basic research agencies (NIH, NSF)
  • Mission-focused agencies (DoED)
  • Hypothesis-driven research
  • Need- or applications driven research at
  • http//opd.tamu.edu/the-craft-of-grant-writing-wor

National Institutes of Health
  • It is interesting to get the "other side of the
    story" especially with respect to funding
    priorities and how they can change very quickly
    given specific research findings (not that the
    funding is immediately available for new
    projects, but more like decisions are made
    quickly about how to re-prioritize).
  • Funding is definitely tight at NIH right now and
    will be for the next few years. Applications have
    to be exemplary and very much tied to the current
    strategic plan of each institute and center. I
    guess that's what you guys have been preaching
    for some time....it just seems particularly
    relevant now.
  • Susan E. Maier, Ph.D., Office of Scientific
    Affairs, NIH/NIAAA (prior OPD)

NIH Reference Toolkit
  • All About NIH Grants, Writing the R01
  • http//www.niaid.nih.gov/ncn/grants/default.htm
  • Annotated R01 Grant Application and Summary
  • http//www.niaid.nih.gov/ncn/grants/app/default.ht
  • How to Write a NIH Grant Application
  • http//www.niaid.nih.gov/ncn/grants/write/write_pf
  • Advice for New Investigators Who is a New
  • http//www.niaid.nih.gov/ncn/grants/plan/plan_i1.h
  • http//www.training.nih.gov/careers/careercenter/g
  • Develop a Strong Hypothesis
  • http//www.niaid.nih.gov/ncn/grants/plan/plan_c1.h
  • Research Plan Section a. Specific Aims
  • http//www.niaid.nih.gov/ncn/grants/write/write_j
  • Proposal Writing The Business of Science (NIH)
  • http//www.whitaker.org/sanders.html
  • NIH Grant Writing Handbook, Univ. Pennsylvania
  • http//www.med.upenn.edu/rpd/documents/gwm.pdf

Social Work Links HHS, NIH others
  • HHS Funding (http//www.hhs.gov/grants/index.shtml
  • HHS Funding for Womens Health (http//www.4woman.
  • HHS Funding Opportunities, ACF (http//www.acf.hhs
  • HHS Office of Community Services Funding
  • Research on Social Work Practice and Concepts in
    Health (R01) (http//grants.nih.gov/grants/guide/p
  • Research on Social Work Practice and Concepts in
    Health (R03) (http//grants.nih.gov/grants/guide/p
  • GWB School of Social Work, Washington Univ.
  • A Guide to Internet Resources in Social Work

Social Work Links HHS others
  • Social Work Internet Resources (http//www.hshsl.u
  • Institute for Advancement of Social Work Research
  • Ball State Social Funding (http//www.bsu.edu/oars
  • LSU Health Science Center Funding
  • CNDC Funding (http//www.cndc2.org/funding_opportu

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NIH Don't Propose Too Much
  • Sharpen the focus of your application. Novice
    applicants often overshoot their mark, proposing
    too much.
  • Make sure the scale of your hypothesis and aims
    fits your request of time and resources.
  • Reviewers will quickly pick up on how well
    matched these elements are.
  • Your hypothesis should be provable and aims
    doable with the resources you are requesting.

NIH Develop a Solid Hypothesis
  • Many top-notch NIH grant applications are driven
    by strong hypotheses rather than advances in
    technology (NSF, DoD counterpoint).
  • Think of your hypothesis as the foundation of
    your application -- the conceptual underpinning
    on which the entire structure rests.
  • Generally applications should ask questions that
    prove or disprove a hypothesis rather than use a
    method to search for a problem or simply collect

NIH Develop a Solid Hypothesis
  • Choose an important, testable, focused hypothesis
    that increases understanding of biologic
    processes, diseases, treatments, or preventions.
  • It should be based on previous research. State
    your hypothesis in both the specific aims section
    of the research plan and the abstract.
  • Avoid a fishing expedition. Reviewers see many
    grants that did not have a hypothesis rather,
    the investigator was obviously hoping that
    something interesting would pop up in the course
    of his or her investigation. That sort of
    approach is not appealing to a study section.

NIH Applications Driven Research
  • A new trend is pushing NIH toward more applied
  • Especially in key areas, such as studies of
    organisms used for bioterrorism, NIH is turning
    more to applications seeking to discover basic
    biology or develop or use a new technology.
  • If your application is not hypothesis-based,
    state this in your cover letter and give the
    reasons why the work is important.

Section a. Specific Aims
  • Your specific aims are the objectives of your
    research project, what you want to accomplish,
    and your project milestones.
  • Write this section for audiences, primary
    reviewers and other reviewers, since they'll all
    read it.
  • Choose aims reviewers can easily assess.
  • Your aims are the accomplishments by which the
    success of your project is measured.
  • Recommended length of this section is one page.
  • A common mistake new applicants make is being too
    ambitious. You should probably limit your
    proposal to three to four specific aims.
  • Design your specific aims and experiments so they
    answer the question posed by the hypothesis.
    Organize and define your aims so you can relate
    them directly to your research methods.

NIH Investigator-initiated review criteria
  • Significance
  • Does the study address an important problem?
  • Approach
  • Are the design and methods appropriate to the
    address the aims?
  • Innovation
  • Does the project employ novel concepts,
    approaches, methods?
  • Investigator
  • Is the investigator appropriately trained to
    carry out the study?
  • Environment
  • Will the scientific environment contribute to the
    probability of success?

Developing Partnerships in Mathematics, Science
  • There are three general categories of grants made
    to universities by federal agencies that include
    educational partnership components
  • research grants,
  • integrated research and education grants, and
  • education grants.

Key Partnership Infrastructures
  • Developing educational partnerships or
    partnerships to address agency specific
    educational and outreach components to research
    proposals, include
  • institutional commitment to the effort
  • resources available on campus,
  • effective models,
  • evaluation and assessment capacities,
  • defining long term objectives and outcomes.

Required Educational Partnerships
  • Increasingly, principal investigators are
    required by federal research agencies, most
    notably the National Science Foundation, to
    address educational or related activities in
    research proposals.
  • At NSF, this requirement derives from two
    agency-wide priorities 1) the agency strategy
    for the integration of research and education and
    2) the broader impacts review criterion
  • However, many researchers struggle with the
    boarder impacts requirement, and often seek help
    in developing this section of the proposal and
    implementing and evaluating it if funded.

Educational Partnership Topics
  • Topics will include
  • Developing and writing educational components to
    research grants,
  • Developing and writing any required evaluation
    and assessment components
  • Linking to successful broader impacts models,
  • Linking to other groups on campus that can
    implement the required broader impacts or
    educational components to research grants

Define Community of Interest
  • Researchers
  • Providers of educational components
  • Providers of educational component models
  • Providers of evaluation and assessment
  • Writers of educational components of research

Define Educational Components by Agency
  • National Science Foundation
  • Broader Impacts criterion
  • Research-education integration core strategy
  • Societal impacts
  • National Institutions of Health
  • Educational objectives mostly separate programs
  • NASA Education and Public Outreach
  • http//science.hq.nasa.gov/research/epo.htm
  • http//ssibroker.colorado.edu/Broker/Eval_criteria
  • Energy, NOAA, Others

NSF Broader Impacts
  • The advance of discovery and understanding
  • Improvement of the participation of
    underrepresented groups
  • Enhancement of the education/research
  • Broad dissemination of results and
  • Benefits of the activity to society at large.
  • http//www.nsf.gov/pubs/2003/nsf032/bicexamples.pd

1. Tips on Developing Partnerships
  • Fully committed PI with institutional support
  • Beware good idea that lacks institutional
  • Analysis of the RFP
  • Assemble proposal development team
  • Partnerships/collaboratives are often more
  • Ensure team members "brings something to the

2. Tips on Developing Partnerships
  • Clearly define reasons for and nature of
  • State concise benefits of the partnership
  • Review each team member's relevance to the RFP
  • Develop major concepts specific to each RFP item

3. Tips on Developing Partnerships
  • Develop strong arguments specific to each RFP
    item or objective
  • Integrate specific objectives into overarching
    vision or strategic plan
  • Integrate evaluation and assessment

4. Tips on Developing Partnerships
  • Initial teaming process and brainstorming will
    not be linear
  • Distill concepts and arguments into linear
  • Converge drafts and interactions to final text

Research Funding Advice Strategies for Junior
Faculty Other Researchers
  • How to be successful in winning funding early in
    your research career
  • Special challenges and opportunities available to
    new faculty as they work to establish their
    research program and to compete for federal
    research funding
  • NSF, NIH and related Young Faculty CAREER awards

1. How to be successful in winning funding
  • Critical to gain as much informal insight into
    funding situation as possible
  • Each agency has its own culture, its own track.
    Your research should be what you love not just
    what is popular
  • Make yourself known in the scientific community
    and to reviewers.
  • Give talks at meetings, seminars know how to be
    politically savvy and engaged with peer
  • Make your scientific enterprise work for you
  • Publish

2. How to be successful in winning funding
  • Experience working with large interdisciplinary
    teams. Different agencies have a different view
    of research.
  • Choose your opportunities carefully its easy
    to see your own research interests in many
    different solicitations, but you have to do your
    homework and review the agency, the
    solicitations, and look for related workshops and
    primary documents that have led to the
  • Particularly at NSF, know your program manager.
    Dont hesitate to call.

3. How to be successful in winning funding
  • As junior faculty, if you have start-up funds,
    you want to spend some of that to develop
    preliminary data to develop your track record.
    Use it as a foundation to move forward.
  • The role of mentors is critical. Some junior
    faculty just need the support. Learning how to
    write, learning about the agency. What does the
    RFP really mean?

4. How to be successful in winning funding
  • It is crucial to read the RFP very carefully.
    Write to the RFP. You have to respond to every
  • Proposals take a lot of effort. Dont lose
    because of some overlooked requirement.
  • Get help from others who have read the RFP or who
    have funding already.
  • Your summary or abstract is critical. That can be
    what sells your proposal makes reviewers want
    to keep reading. It should include all the
    critical points of your proposal.

5. How to be successful in winning funding
  • At NSF, it is very important to know the program
    officers. They have power. They keep up with
    trends in their field. They need to know your
    name. Theyll work with you.
  • However, just because you know the PD doesnt
    guarantee funding. There are checks and balances
    at NSF. Theres still a peer review process. It
    is a professional relationship, and its
    objective. Just getting along with the program
    officer wont turn bad science into good science.

6. How to be successful in winning funding
  • Consider writing a white paper first,
    particularly for unsolicited proposals to NSF,
    defense agencies or others.
  • Call the program manager often there is money
    set aside. Theyre looking for new ideas, but
    wont just fund a cold proposal. Send the white
    paper and ask if theyre interested or if they
    know someone who might be.
  • This saves you time and gives you a reasonable
    chance of getting funded.
  • A white paper is a broad-brushed outline what
    you will gain and why it will be successful and
    how youll do it, and rough costs.

7. How to be successful in winning funding
  • It is informative to look at what has been funded
    before, especially if youre having trouble
    finding out what the RFP means.
  • Also, you can see workshop documents, etc. You
    can prepare by going to workshops get to know
    the research community and the program directors.
  • If youre involved in the planning of future
    directions, youre in a better position for
    future funding. Might be difficult for a young
    faculty, but certainly should do this as your
    career develops.

8. How to be successful in winning funding
  • A common mistake among young investigators is to
    combine 3 projects into what should be only one.
    Focus is the key term write a blue sky section
    at the end, if you like, talking about what your
    plans are for the future.
  • It doesnt matter how good your idea is if it is
    not well presented, it wont get funded. The
    opposite is also true no matter how well written
    a proposal is, if the science isnt there, it
    wont get funded. You have to have both form and
  • If your proposal has grammatical errors or is
    hard to follow, it can indicate sloppy research
    to reviewers.

Twelve Steps To A Winning Research Proposal by
George A. Hazelrigg, NSF
  • I have been an NSF program director for 18 years.
    During this time, I have personally administered
    the review of some 3,000 proposals and been
    involved in the review of perhaps another 10,000.
    Through this experience, I have come to see that
    often there are real differences between winning
    proposals and losing proposals. The differences
    are clear. Largely, they are not subjective
    differences or differences of quality to a large
    extent, losing proposals are just plain missing
    elements that are found in winning proposals.

1. Know yourself (Back)
  • Know your area of expertise, what are your
    strengths and what are your weaknesses. Play to
    your strengths, not to your weaknesses. Do not
    assume that, because you do not understand an
    area, no one understands it or that there has
    been no previous research conducted in the area.
  • If you want to get into a new area of research,
    learn something about the area before you write a
    proposal. Research previous work. Be a scholar.

2. Know program from which you seek support
  • You are responsible for finding the appropriate
    program for support of your research. Dont leave
    this task up to someone else. If you are not
    absolutely certain which program is appropriate,
    call the program officer to find out.
  • Never submit a proposal to a program if you are
    not certain that it is the correct program to
    support your area of research.
  • Proposals submitted inappropriately to programs
    may be returned without review, transferred to
    other programs where they are likely to be
    declined, or simply trashed in the program to
    which you submit. In any case, you have wasted
    your time writing a proposal that has no chance
    of success from the get-go.

3. Read the program announcement
  • Programs and special activities have specific
    goals and specific requirements. If you dont
    meet those goals and requirements, you have
    thrown out your chance of success.
  • Read the announcement for what it says, not for
    what you want it to say.
  • If your research does not fit easily within the
    scope of the topic areas outlined, your chance of
    success is nil.

4. Formulate an appropriate research objective
  • A research proposal is a proposal to conduct
    research, not to conduct development or design or
    some other activity. Research is a methodical
    process of building upon previous knowledge to
    derive or discover new knowledge, that is,
    something that isnt known before the research is
  • In formulating a research objective, be sure that
    it hasnt been proven impossible (for example,
    My research objective is to find a geometric
    construction to trisect an angle), that it is
    doable within a reasonable budget and in a
    reasonable time, that you can do it, and that it
    is research, not development.

5. Develop a viable research plan
  • A viable research plan is a plan to accomplish
    your research objective that has a non-zero
    probability of success. The focus of the plan
    must be to accomplish the research objective. In
    some cases, it is appropriate to validate your
    results. In such cases, a valid validation plan
    should be part of your research plan.
  • If there are potential difficulties lurking in
    your plan, do not hide from them, but make them
    clear and, if possible, suggest alternative
    approaches to achieving your objective.
  • A good research plan lays out step-by-step the
    approach to accomplishment of the research
    objective. It does not gloss over difficult areas
    with statements like, We will use computers to
    accomplish this solution.

6. State research objective clearly in proposal
  • A good research proposal includes a clear
    statement of the research objective. Early in the
    proposal is better than later in the proposal.
    The first sentence of the proposal is a good
    place. A good first sentence might be, The
    research objective of this proposal is... Do not
    use the word develop in the statement of your
    research objective. It is, after all, supposed to
    be a research objective, not a development
  • Many proposals include no statement of the
    research objective whatsoever. The vast majority
    of these are not funded. Remember that a research
    proposal is not a research paper.
  • Do not spend the first 10 pages building up
    suspense over what is the research objective.

7. Frame project around the work of others
  • Remember that research builds on the extant
    knowledge base, that is, upon the work of others.
    Be sure to frame your project appropriately,
    acknowledging the current limits of knowledge and
    making clear your contribution to the extension
    of these limits.
  • Be sure that you include references to the extant
    work of others. Proposals that include references
    only to the work of the principal investigator
    stand a negligible probability of success.
  • Also frame your project in terms of its broader
    impact to the field and to society. Describe the
    benefit to society if your project is successful.
    A good statement is, If successful, the benefits
    of this research will be...

8. Grammar and spelling count
  • Proposals are not graded on grammar. But if the
    grammar is not perfect, the result is ambiguities
    left to the reviewer to resolve.
  • Ambiguities make the proposal difficult to read
    and often impossible to understand, and often
    result in low ratings. Be sure your grammar is
  • Also be sure every word is correctly spelled. If
    the word you want to use is not in the spell
    checker, consider carefully its use. Not in the
    spell checker usually means that most people
    wont understand it. With only very special
    exceptions, it is not advisable to use words that
    are not in the spell checker. Reviewers used to
    say, Hes just an engineer. Dont mind the fact
    that he cant spell. Now they say, Hes
    proposing to do complex computer modeling, but he
    doesnt know how to use the spell checker...

9. Format and brevity are important
  • Do not feel that your proposal is rated based on
    its weight.
  • Do not do your best to be as verbose as possible,
    to cover every conceivable detail, to use the
    smallest permissible fonts, and to get the
    absolute most out of each sheet of paper.
  • Reviewers hate being challenged to read densely
    prepared text or to read obtusely prepared
    matter. Use 12 point fonts, use easily legible
    fonts, use generous margins. Take pity on the
    reviewers. Make your proposal a pleasant reading
    experience that puts important concepts up front
    and makes them clear. Use figures appropriately
    to make and clarify points, but not as filler.
  • Remember, you are writing this proposal to the
    reviewers, not to yourself. Remember that
    exceeding page limits or other format criteria,
    even marginally, can disqualify your proposal
    from consideration.

10. Know the review process
  • Know how your proposal will be reviewed before
    you write it. Proposals that are reviewed by
    panels must be written to a broader audience than
    proposals that will be reviewed by mail. Mail
    review can seek out reviewers with very specific
    expertise in very narrow disciplines. This is not
    possible in panels. Know approximately how many
    proposals will be reviewed with yours and plan
    not to overburden the reviewers with minutia.
    Keep in mind that, the more proposals a panel
    considers, the more difficult it will be for
    panelists to remember specific details of your
  • Remember, the main objective here is to write
    your proposal to get it through the review
    process successfully. It is not the objective of
    your proposal to brag about yourself or your
    research, nor is it the objective to seek to
    publish your proposal.
  • Again, your proposal is a proposal, it is not a
    research paper.

11. Proof read your proposal before it is sent
  • Many proposals are sent out with idiotic
    mistakes, omissions, and errors of all sorts.
  • NSF program managers have seen proposals come in
    with research schedules pasted in from other
    proposals unchanged, with dates referring to the
    stone age and irrelevant research tasks.
    Proposals have been submitted with the list of
    references omitted and with the references not
    referred to. Proposals have been submitted to the
    wrong program. Proposals have been submitted with
    misspellings in the title.
  • These proposals were not successful. Stupid
    things like this kill a proposal. It is easy to
    catch them with a simple, but careful, proof
    reading. Dont spend six or eight weeks writing a
    proposal just to kill it with stupid mistakes
    that are easily prevented.

12. Submit your proposal on time
  • Duh? Why work for two months on a proposal just
    to have it disqualified for being late? Remember,
    fairness dictates that proposal submission rules
    must apply to everyone. It is not up to the
    discretion of the program officer to grant you
    dispensation on deadlines. That would be unfair
    to everyone else, and it could invalidate the
    entire competition. Equipment failures, power
    outages, hurricanes and tornadoes, and even
    internal problems at your institution are not
    valid excuses. As adults, you are responsible for
    getting your proposal in on time. If misfortune
    befalls you, its tough luck. Dont take chances.
    Get your proposal in two or three days before the

Improve your prospects for success as an academic
researcher (by George A. Hazelrigg, NSF)
  • There are two more things that you can do to
    vastly improve your prospects for success as an
    academic researcher.
  • First, you have to know yourself as well as you
    can. Who are you? Where are you going? Where do
    you want to go? I strongly urge people,
    especially young faculty just starting their
    careers, to write a strategic plan for their
    life. Where are you today? Where do you want to
    be in five years, ten years, twenty years?
  • Then create a roadmap of how to get from where
    you are to where you want to be in the future.
    The focus of this roadmap should be the things
    over which you have control, and it should
    acknowledge the things over which you have no
    control. If you cant write such a plan, then
    your goals for the future are not realistic. You
    can revise the plan as often as you wish. But the
    fact that the plan exists will influence your
    proposal in a very positive way, as it will place
    the research project you propose into the broad
    context of your life plan.

Resources for Junior Faculty
  • Resources for Junior Faculty
  • http//opd.tamu.edu/resources-for-junior-faculty
  • Funding for Junior Faculty
  • http//opd.tamu.edu/funding-opportunities/funding-

Early Career Programs for Faculty (Back)
  • DoD
  • Young Investigator (ONR, ARL)
  • Congressionally Mandated Directed Medical
    Research Programs Young Investigator
  • NASA New Investigator Program in Earth-Sun
  • NIH
  • Scientist Development Award for New Minority
  • Career Development Awards (K-awards)
  • Esp. Career Transition (K22) Award
  • NIAMS Small Grants Program for New Investigators

Early Career Programs for Faculty
  • Foundations
  • Burroughs Wellcome Fund
  • PhRMA Foundation
  • Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Early Career
    Fellowship in Economic Studies
  • Kellogg Forum Rising Stars, etc.
  • Professional organization early career or
    young investigator programs
  • American Philosophical Society Franklin
    Research Grants
  • Listing of Programs
  • http//www.spo.berkeley.edu/Fund/newfaculty.html

  • Duration 5 years
  • Funding level minimum 400K total (except min.
    500K total for BIO directorate)
  • Eligibility
  • Have a PhD
  • Untenured, holding tenure-track Asst. Prof.
    position or equivalent
  • Have not competed in CAREER more than two times
  • Have not won a CAREER award
  • Due July 19 21 depending on directorate
  • Typical 10 20 success rate
  • Solicitation http//www.nsf.gov/publications/pub_

Key Points for CAREER
  • Career Development Plan to build a firm
    foundation for a lifetime of integrated
    contributions to research and education
  • Where is your field going over the next 20 years?
  • What will help you become established at national
  • Establish that you have the experience and
    resources to accomplish what you propose

Key Points (contd)
  • Integrated Education Plan
  • Along with Broader Impacts, often the
    discriminator among many technically good
  • Looking for innovative approaches to integrating
    education and research
  • Use strategic approach dont overburden yourself
    with unreasonable education workload
  • Do what interests you, makes sense for your
  • Be sure to address diversity issues

Key Points (contd)
  • Outreach and Broader Impacts
  • Broaden participation of under-rep. groups
  • Dissemination
  • Societal benefits
  • Improve infrastructure for research
  • Discuss throughout proposal AND in separate
    section in both Project Summary and Description
  • Connect to existing programs (ITS Center,
    Research Experiences for Teachers, Research
    Experiences for Undergraduates, Rural Systemic
    Initiatives, etc. - more later)

Review Criteria
  • Intellectual Merit and Broader Impacts equally
  • Must show you have the skills to carry out the
  • Collaboration helpful, especially if moving into
    new area need letter saying you are
    collaborating (no co-PIs)
  • If moving into new area explain why this area
    should be investigated
  • Data from your prior work good idea
  • Publications in area greatly improves

Review Criteria
  • Support from your department is critical
  • Highlight benefits of your project to the
    department (does it add important capabilities,
    fit in with departments strategic plan, bring in
    new infrastructure?)
  • Discuss any connections to NSF priority areas,
    even if peripheral
  • State benefits of your research clearly
  • Why is it important?
  • How will it advance knowledge in field?
  • Societal benefits
  • Be sure to emphasize integration of education and

Strengths of Successful Proposals
  • Novel or high-impact research focus
  • Innovative research plan
  • Education plan is well-developed, integrated with
    research and includes some consideration of
    evaluating its success
  • Education plan goes beyond routine course
    development expected of all assistant professors
  • Quoted from J. Tornow presentation at QEM
    Workshop http//qemnetwork.qem.org16080/tornow_pr

Weaknesses of Unsuccessful CAREER Proposals
  • Research is either too ambitious or too narrowly
  • Proposed methods do not address the stated
    research goals
  • Educational component is either limited to
    routine courses or is unrealistically
  • Integration of research and education is weak or
  • Quoted from J. Tornow presentation at QEM
  • http//qemnetwork.qem.org16080/tornow_presentatio

Typical CAREER Review Process
  • Program director identifies 3 to 6 reviewers with
    expertise in technical area
  • Note PI can suggest reviewers
  • Advantage if reviewers are familiar with PI or
    PIs advisor
  • Proposal mailed to reviewers, who focus on
    technical merit
  • Does research address an important question in
    the field?
  • Is research innovative and exciting?
  • Is it likely that the researcher will be
    successful in reaching her/his goals
  • Are researchers goals and methods clear?
  • May evaluate education, broader impacts but not
    main focus

Typical Review Process
  • After mail reviews, proposal reviewed by panel at
  • How well does proposed work integrate education
    with research?
  • Is education plan innovative and does it make
    sense for project?
  • What are broader impacts?
  • How well does project promote diversity?
  • Balance of topics of funded projects (i.e., wont
    fund 10 projects in same area)
  • Process varies by directorate
  • For example, Physics directorate does not have
    mail reviews

Coming up with a Research Idea
  • What do you want to do?
  • Does it address important questions in your
  • Is it novel and cutting-edge
  • Not incremental improvement or refinement of
    established research
  • Where is your field going in the next 20 years?
  • Do you have the background and resources to
    accomplish your goals?
  • If you are moving into a new but related area, be
    sure you discuss collaborations with researchers
    who will fill any gaps
  • Will it contribute to your career goals?
  • Will it contribute to your departments goals?
  • Important Talk to your department head and
    research departmental goals!

Next Step Strategic Info Gathering
  • Determine which NSF program to submit your
    proposal to.
  • Extremely important! Submitting to wrong program
    can doom good proposal.
  • Do this by e-mailing or calling program director.
  • Have a paragraph summary of your proposed
    research prepared.
  • Use NSF web site
  • Search awarded CAREER projects in directorate
  • Check program goals
  • Talk to senior researchers in the area where are
    they funded?

General Writing Advice
  • Follow directions! (See solicitation, Grant
    Proposal Guide)
  • Make it easy to read and understand
  • Reviewer may be scanning your proposal on an
  • Use bullets, tables, graphs, illustrations as
    much as possible this is what they will look at
  • Watch your font the Grant Proposal Guide gives
    rules on minimum font size. Best to stay at 12
    pt for readability

General Writing Advice (contd)
  • Make the main points easy to find
  • Put them at the beginning of the paragraph
  • Use underline, bold, white space, etc.
  • Specifically state all benefits of your project
  • Even if its obvious to you, may not be obvious
    to reviewer outside your area
  • Communicate your excitement!

Project Summary (1 page)
  • Clearly address intellectual merit and broader
    impacts separately (and label them) if you
    dont , your proposal will be returned without
  • This is a sales document and may be the only
    thing the reviewer will read
  • Must pique the reviewers interest
  • State up front the advantages of your project
    (technical, societal, diversity, etc.) dont be
  • Summary should be clear and easy to read spend a
    lot of time on this!

Project Description (15 pages)
  • Description of proposed research project
  • Description of proposed educational activities
  • Description of how research and educational
    activites are integrated
  • Results of Prior NSF support, if applicable (5
    pgs max)
  • Last 5 years
  • Report on only one program (most closely related)

Project Description
  • Objectives and Significance
  • Relation of research to current state of
  • Outline of Plan of Work including evaluation of
    education activities
  • Relation of plan to career goals and
  • Relation of plan to department goals
  • Prior Research and Education Accomplishments

Project Description
  • Objectives and Significance of Plan
  • State your objectives clearly and at the
    beginning include education goals
  • Describe briefly how your plan will advance
    knowledge in the field, improve education,
    provide societal benefits, etc.
  • Background relationship of research to current
    state of knowledge in the field
  • Provide enough background to bring non-expert in
    field up to speed and demonstrate your knowledge
  • Give plenty of references, particularly of
    experts in field (who may be reviewing your
  • Do not be dismissive of previous work
  • Relationship of education activities to research
    on effective teaching and learning in your field

Project Description (contd)
  • Your Prior Work
  • Describe what you have done to date in area
  • Cite publications
  • Present any data you have generated
  • Establish your expertise in the area (or in
    related area)
  • Use graphs, figures, etc. where possible
  • Avoid too dense text
  • Describe any directly related education

Project Description
  • Plan of Work
  • Measurable goals and objectives (research,
    education, diversity, outreach, etc.)
  • Methods and Procedures (include education
    evaluation methods)
  • Be sure to discuss broader impact, diversity,
    outreach, etc.
  • Include activity and milestone chart by year
    (both research and education included in each

Project Description
  • Examples of Education Components
  • Go more than would be expected as part of your
  • Develop a course related to your research
  • Must be innovative (e.g., active learning
    approach, technology assisted learning,
    interdisciplinary outlook, connection with
    industry, communication, ethics or sociology
    component, etc. refer to NSF-funded Foundation
  • Involve undergraduates in research
  • What is your goal?
  • Encourage them to continue to grad school? Then
    include mentoring, info on application process
  • Prepare them for industry? Then connect them
    with industrial representatives, potential
  • Innovative graduate student education
  • Interdisciplinary focus, international component,

Treat Education as a Scholarly Enterprise
  • Cite research and publications on best education
    practices, suggested reforms
  • 1999 National Research Council report How People
    Learn Brain, Mind, Experience, and School
  • NRC report Knowing What Students Know The
    Science and Design of Educational Assessment.
  • NSF report SHAPING THE FUTURE New Expectations
    for Undergraduate Education in Science,
    Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology
  • The Boyer Commission on Educating Undergraduates
    in the Research University, REINVENTING
    America's Research Universities
  • Discipline-specific pubs e.g., BIO 2010
    Transforming Undergraduate Education for Future
    Research Biologists (2003), Committee on
    Undergraduate Biology Education to Prepare
    Research Scientists for the 21st Century,
    National Research Council of the National
    Academies, The National Academies Press.
  • Pilot Study to Establish the Nature and Impact of
    Effective Undergraduate Research Experiences on
    Learning, Attitude, and Career Choice, Research
    on Learning and Education (ROLE), David E.
    Lopatto, Principal Investigator, Grinnell

Education Component
  • Goals should be specific and measurable
  • Evaluation should measure how well your approach
    is working
  • E.g., percentage of undergrads mentored
    continuing to grad school, improvement in test
    scores, etc.
  • See NSF Handbook on Evaluation at
  • Plans should include details to make them real
  • E.g., Number of students served, need being
    addressed with statistics
  • Check with your College for statistics on
    enrollment, etc.

Broader Impacts and Outreach
  • Address diversity issues!
  • Examples (choose what interests you and make
    sense for your project)
  • Work with K-12 teachers
  • Research Experiences for Teachers (RET)
  • Connect with PEER Program
  • Work with pre-service teachers
  • Work with undergrads from other schools (e.g.,
    minority serving)
  • Research Experiences for Undergraduates
    supplement (is there an REU site in your

Broader Impacts More Examples
  • Work with high school students on Science Fair
  • Work with Community College teachers
  • Collaborate with faculty from smaller and/or
    minority serving institutions
  • Give them summer access to your facilities
  • Connect to student chapters of minority
    professional organizations (e.g., Society of
    Women Engineers, Society of Mexican American
    Engineers and Scientists) look for natural

Career goals
  • Relation of PIs Career goals to goals of
  • Talk to your Department Head!
  • Check planning documents for department and
  • Reference Vision 2020 and how you will contribute
    to these goals
  • http//www.tamu.edu/vision2020/

Departmental Endorsement (load under
Supplementary Docs)
  • Letter from Dept Head
  • Must be signed by Head with name, title, date
    printed below signature
  • Proposed activities supported by and integrated
    into goals of department and department will
    support the development of the PI
  • Mentoring, Facilities, Summer salary (can list
    components from your start-up package), etc.
  • Description of
  • Relationship between project, PIs career goals
    and responsibilities and department goals
  • Ways in which DH will ensure mentoring of PI
  • Verification PI is eligible

Other Documents (contd)
  • Supplementary Documents
  • PI self-certification of eligibility (on
  • Letters of commitment from collaborators
  • No reference letters allowed
  • 2-page bio
  • see Grant Proposal Guide for format and follow it
    (some directorates very picky!)
  • Current and Pending
  • Lists currently funded project (from any source,
    not just NSF) and any pending proposal for
    external funding
  • See Grant Proposal Guide
  • Facilities

Budget and Budget Justification
  • No support of other Senior Personnel (faculty,
  • Be sure to fund your educational activities also
  • Budget Justification
  • Another way to sell your ideas
  • Make sure its easy to follow and supports the
    stated work plan

  • Read and address reviews from last submission
  • Reviewers will have access to your last
  • Call your program officer for input
  • Best soon after receiving reviews
  • But if you have questions about some reviews,
    call him/her now

ONR Young Investigator Program (Office of Naval
  • 100,000 per year for three years
  • FY 05 proposal was due 12 January 2006.
  • FY07 announcement usually posted in September
  • http//www.onr.navy.mil/sci_tech/archive_to_dvd/in
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