NSF note

One last reflection note before we get a full month into the new year, this on the NSF and their dispersal of money. I served on a number of panels over the last year, and many more in my 10 years post-Ph.D., and I’ve had a few grants funded, both as PI and co-PI. Mainly, this will serve as a reminder to myself, but others may find it useful.

1. Write for a “champion” on the panel. You can have a bunch of people who like it, and even like it a lot, but you need one (smart, motivated, convincing) person to champion it.

2. Contact the program manager once you have an idea, just to make sure you’re in the ballpark and covering all the bases. There always seem to be proposals that seem to be high quality in terms of ideas and writing, but just didn’t touch upon things in the call…thing that the program managers will say again and again in the panel. So call yours and hear them before submitting. (And occasionally there’s even a “cheat sheet” of tips, so at least ping a program manager about that.)

3. Fish in a lot of ponds. That is, submit lots of proposals, and don’t wait around the 6 months to find out about a proposal before submitting another. But don’t submit the same proposal to multiple places…there’s always that panelist who was on that other panel too. Some peole disagree with this rule–thinking that it is better to aim for a smaller number of really great proposals–but there are just so many variables regarding panels that I prefer the many ponds approach.

There are always exceptions to these rules, but clearly many of the top proposals in the panels I’ve been on have been crafted with these rules.

Categories: Professional activities Tags: ,
  1. February 2, 2010 at 5:13 am

    I’m not quite sure what you’re suggesting with your first rule. Does this mean “write confidently, to someone like yourself that you hope is on the panel and willing to fight for a paper that resonates?” I’ve only co-authored a couple of these and neither have been funded, so I may be missing some needed context.

  2. February 7, 2010 at 1:38 am

    Regarding finding a champion, most funded proposals have someone who stands up for it, who says “this is really great, we should fund this, they are going to do x then y then z, which will make a real difference in the world”. It doesn’t seem to do as much good if you just put forth an across-the-board solid proposal–there are too many that have a champion for ones that everybody merely “likes” to succeed.

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