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Writing Winning Grant Proposals: Formulas For Success

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Writing Winning Grant Proposals: Formulas For Success Mark A. Mirando National Program Leader, National Research Initiative Competitive Grants Program – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Writing Winning Grant Proposals: Formulas For Success


1
Writing Winning Grant Proposals Formulas For
Success
Mark A. Mirando National Program Leader, National
Research Initiative Competitive Grants Program
2
Organization
  • Background and introduction
  • Ten things you must do
  • Developing a timeline for preparing your proposal
  • Some additional helpful hints
  • Most common criticisms of proposals

3
Background and Introduction
  • My perspective on grantsmanship
  • ideas from experienced colleagues
  • approaches from successful applicants
  • Emphasis on information for the novice
  • a refresher the more experienced
  • new ideas for old hands
  • Organized to help proposals that fall into the
    gray area just below the funding line

4
Background and Introduction
  • Start with a good idea !
  • Poor ideas will not be successful regardless of
    how well they are packaged
  • Good ideas are often not funded because they are
    not packaged well
  • For every good idea that is funded, there are
    others that arent not packaged well
  • Then improve the packaging !

5
Background and Introduction
  • Acronyms used in this presentation
  • RFA Request for Applications
  • RFP Request for Proposals (same as RFA)

6
Ten Things You Must Do
  • 1. Find the right program for you and your idea
  • Main purpose of program (funding priorities) -
    does your idea fit in mainstream or on the fringe
  • Find out where abstracts of previously funded
    projects are .. great source of information
  • Call the Program Manager to discuss your idea
    relative to the program priorities

7
Ten Things You Must Do
  • 1. Find the right program for you and your idea
  • Best approach is to find program in your area and
    determine program priorities, then develop idea
    to fit within the program
  • Dont waste time applying to the wrong program
    square pegs do not fit in round holes
  • Eligibility restrictions ?

8
Ten Things You Must Do
  • 2. Become a student of the RFA
  • Understand the main goals of the program
  • Does your idea fit within these goals?
  • Dont hesitate to call the Program Manager
  • Understand the directions outlined in the RFA on
    how to assemble the proposal

9
Ten Things You Must Do
  • 3. Develop a timeline for proposal preparation
  • Develop a timeline that will allow for completion
    of proposal 3 to 4 weeks before submission
    deadline
  • If you rush preparation of the proposal, it will
    show - reviewers will notice and will not be kind

10
Ten Things You Must Do
  • 4. Understand criteria used to evaluate
    proposals
  • RFA normally contains the criteria that will be
    used by reviewers to evaluate your proposal
  • Understand these criteria BEFORE you begin
    preparing your proposal
  • Provides a greater understanding as to where to
    put the greatest efforts during proposal
    preparation

11
Ten Things You Must Do
  • 4. Understand criteria used to evaluate
    proposals
  • Typically review criteria include
  • Scientific merit
  • Relevance to program priorities
  • Qualifications of project personnel
  • Planning and administration of project

12
Ten Things You Must Do
  • 5. Understand the review process and reviewers
  • Reviewers are provided guidance by the program
    for evaluating proposals using evaluation
    criteria in the RFA
  • Reviewers evaluate each proposal .. strengths,
    weakness, qualifications of personnel,
    probability of success, etc.

13
Ten Things You Must Do
  • 5. Understand the review process and reviewers
  • Reviewers provide individual scores when they
    meet as a group (review panel), they then provide
    a group score
  • Reviewers are looking for proposals they can
    champion and those they can dismiss

14
Ten Things You Must Do
  • 5. Understand the review process and reviewers
  • Each reviewer may be assigned 10 to 25 proposals
  • Following directions in the RFA helps the
    reviewers not following directions makes them
    work hard
  • Preparing the proposal logically and clearly
    helps reviewers not doing so makes them work hard

15
Ten Things You Must Do
  • 5. Understand the review process and reviewers
  • To the degree you make a reviewer work hard, the
    probability of your proposal being funded
    decreases exponentially !
  • Work to make reviewers champion your proposal

16
Ten Things You Must Do
  • 6. Write the proposal logically and clearly
  • Most important section of the entire proposal is
    the Project Summary or Abstract
  • Summary captures the essence of your proposal
    must be clear, concise, well articulated and
    logical
  • Typically the only section that every reviewer
    reads

17
Ten Things You Must Do
  • 6. Write the proposal logically and clearly
  • Organize proposal according to outline in RFA or
    review evaluation criteria, whichever is most
    logical
  • Following the prescribed format makes reviewers
    happy and more generous
  • Making reviewers work hard hurts you

18
Ten Things You Must Do
  • 6. Write the proposal logically and clearly
  • Background establishes the need for the project
    -project is important and interesting
  • The need can be readily identified with the
    priorities of the program .. make sure you say
    it in the proposal !

19
Ten Things You Must Do
  • 6. Write the proposal logically and clearly
  • Overarching hypothesis (or goal)
  • Specific aims or objectives that test the
    hypothesis
  • Methodologies with associated timelines
  • Expected outcomes and impacts

20
Ten Things You Must Do
  • 6. Write the proposal logically and clearly
  • Reviewers must be convinced that
  • Goals reflect major priorities of the program
  • If objectives are accomplished, you will attain
    goals
  • If methodology is followed, objectives will be
    attained
  • Expected results are directly related to overall
    goals and priorities of the program

21
Ten Things You Must Do
  • 6. Write the proposal logically and clearly
  • Reviewers must be convinced that
  • The proposed evaluation plan will keep you on
    track to successful completion of the project
  • The probability of success is acceptable
  • That the proposal NEEDS to be FUNDED

22
Ten Things You Must Do
  • 7. Prepare budget with a strong justification
  • Use timeline to compute amount of time personnel
    will spend carrying out each portion of the
    project
  • Unreasonable budgets hurt proposals - they create
    skeptics within reviewer ranks
  • Keep budgets within guidelines in the RFA - they
    are judged on the degree of reasonableness

23
Ten Things You Must Do
  • 8. Obtain critical input from experienced and
    successful colleagues
  • One who has significant expertise in the topic
    area
  • Another who has only passing familiarity (or
    less) with the subject matter
  • A third who is an excellent writer

24
Ten Things You Must Do
  • 8. Obtain critical input from experienced and
    successful colleagues . someone
  • Who talks frankly, bluntly and clearly - do not
    want someone who beats around the bush
  • Who has little sympathy for your ego
  • Who is smart and crafty
  • Who has success in obtaining grants

25
Ten Things You Must Do
  • 9. Fill out forms completely and correctly
  • 10. Allow time for intramural administrative
    requirements - send to arrive on time
  • A deadline is a deadline is a deadline !

26
Developing a Timeline for Proposal Preparation
  • 1.5 1 year before deadline
  • Discuss ideas with others
  • Complete current experiments and publish results
    to show
  • Productivity
  • Ability to take a project from an idea to
    published completion

27
Developing a Timeline for Proposal Preparation
  • 12 - 6 months before deadline
  • Generate preliminary data
  • 6 - 3 months before deadline
  • Create initial draft of proposal
  • 3 - 2 months before deadline
  • Obtain comments from colleagues, revise
    accordingly

28
Developing a Timeline for Proposal Preparation
  • 2 - 1 months before deadline
  • Prepare budget and non-science parts
  • 1 month before deadline
  • Have draft of final version
  • Obtain additional comments from colleagues on the
    whole package

29
Developing a Timeline for Proposal Preparation
  • 2 - 1 weeks before deadline
  • Final version proofreading (by someone who has
    not seen it before) and then proofread again !
  • 7 - 5 days before deadline
  • Make necessary copies of all parts (figures,
    etc.)
  • Obtain required signatures
  • 3 - 2 days before deadline
  • Submit proposal

30
Some Additional Helpful Hints
  • Importance and relevance
  • Related to an important agricultural problem or
    to human health and well being ?
  • Related to significant deficit in our knowledge
    of important biological process ?
  • Relevant to program priorities ?

31
Some Additional Helpful Hints
  • Develop an overarching hypothesis
  • A testable idea or notion
  • Basic premise for the proposal
  • Once formed and focused, it should drive the rest
    of the proposal
  • Bigger than the specific aims or objectives

32
Some Additional Helpful Hints
  • Hypothesis
  • Not in the form of a question
  • Hypothesis should be repeated
  • Abstract, Background, Specific Aims
  • Stated exactly the same way throughout
  • Same applies for Specific Aims

33
Some Additional Helpful Hints
  • Specific aims
  • Compelling
  • Clearly hypothesis-driven
  • Not names of experiments

34
Some Additional Helpful Hints
  • Avoid using terms indicating description
  • correlate
  • describe
  • assess
  • measure
  • Avoid passive voice, flowery terms, wishy-washy
    terms

35
Some Additional Helpful Hints
  • Each section of the proposal linked to each
    other
  • Rationale for each study linked to an aspect of
    hypothesis
  • Potential outcomes of experiments linked to
    proving or disproving the hypothesis

36
Some Additional Helpful Hints
  • High probability of success
  • Focused
  • Not a fishing expedition
  • Feasible
  • Solid preliminary data
  • Letters from experts expressing support and
    willingness to help

37
Some Additional Helpful Hints
  • Significance
  • Not a mystery novel - deliver message fast
  • Proposed studies yield information that is
    unique other approaches do not work as well
  • Relevant to the big picture
  • Key to convincing reviewers to support your
    proposal rather than that of your competition

38
Some Additional Helpful Hints
  • Make the proposal textbook quality
  • avoid typographical, grammatical, spelling errors
  • use large font, make it easy to read
  • include sub-headings, include lots of spacing
  • use high quality figures
  • Minimize author-defined acronyms

39
Some Additional Helpful Hints
  • Provide sufficient detail for evaluation
  • Present pitfalls, provide alternative solutions
  • Dont pad the budget, keep it lean but adequate

40
Some Additional Helpful Hints
  • The one-page Project Summary or Abstract should
    be a work of art !
  • Clarity is everything !
  • Proofread, Proofread, Proofread !
  • Electronic spell-checkers wont catch everything !

41
Most Common Criticisms
  • Poorly written
  • Not well justified
  • scientific problem
  • experimental model
  • relevance to program priorities or purpose
  • Lacks convincing preliminary data

42
Most Common Criticisms
  • No hypothesis or poorly presented
  • Not hypothesis-driven, studies are descriptive
  • Objectives dont address hypothesis
  • Objectives lack focus, too diffuse

43
Most Common Criticisms
  • Approaches and methods lack detail needed to
    evaluate potential for success
  • Investigator lacks expertise with given approach
  • Expected results not presented, interpreted
  • Pitfalls not addressed, alternative solutions not
    presented

44
Most Common Criticisms
  • Overly ambitious, too much or too difficult to
    accomplish in reasonable time-frame
  • Time-line unrealistic for successful completion
    of proposed project
  • Resubmitted proposal did not address concerns
    identified during previous review

45
What to Do if You Have Questions ?
Contact theProgram Staff ! ! !
46
  • mmirando_at_csrees.usda.gov
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