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  • 1. Strategies for writing competitive proposals
    • By Mike Cronan, PE (inactive)
      • [email_address]
      • Office of Proposal Development
      • Office of Research & Graduate Studies
      • Texas A&M University
    • 305 J. K. Williams Administration Building (845-1811)
    • http://opd.tamu.edu/
    • http://opd.tamu.edu/seminar-materials/seminar-materials-by-date
  • 2. Presenter
    • Mike Cronan, PE (inactive), Director , was named a Regents Fellow (2000-04) by the A&M System Board of Regents for his leadership role in developing funded research and educational partnerships System-wide. He has 22 years of experience in the development and writing of successful research and educational proposals.
      • B.S., Civil Engineering (Structures), University of Michigan, 1983
      • B.A., Political Science, Michigan State University, 1968
      • M.F.A., English, University of California, Irvine, 1972
      • Registered Professional Engineer (Texas 063512, inactive)
  • 3. Topics
    • "How To" Strategies for Finding Research Funding
    • Analyzing the RFP & Its Role in Proposal Development
    • Analyzing the Agency Culture, Mission and Research Priorities
    • Understanding the Review Process & Writing for Reviewers
    • Writing a Competitive Project Summary and Proposal Narrative
  • 4.  
  • 5. OPD Member List
    • Jean Ann Bowman , PhD (Physical Geography/Hydrology), earth, ecological, environmental, [email_address] ;
    • Libby Childress , Scheduling, workshop management, project coordination, [email_address] ;
    • Mike Cronan , PE (inactive), BS (Civil/Structures), BA, MFA, Center-level proposals, research and educational partnerships, new proposal and training initiatives, [email_address] ;
    • Lucy Deckard , BS/MS (Materials Science & Engineering), New faculty initiative, fellowships, engineering/ physical science proposals, equipment and instrumentation, centers, [email_address] ;
    • John Ivy , PhD (Molecular Biology), NIH biomedical and biological science initiatives, [email_address] ;
    • Phyllis McBride , PhD (English), proposal writing training, biomedical, editing, [email_address] ;
    • Robyn Pearson , BA, MA (Anthropology), social sciences and humanities proposals, editing and rewriting, centers, [email_address]
  • 6.
    • “ There is no amount of grantsmanship that will turn a bad idea into a good one, but there are many ways to disguise a good one.”
    • William Raub former Deputy Director, NIH
  • 7. Types of university proposals
    • Research (basic, applied, mission, applications, contract)
    • Educational
    • Hybrid research and education
    • Small $, few PIs
    • Large $, multiple PIs, centers
    • Supplements to grants
  • 8. Solicited & unsolicited proposals
    • Proposals may be initiated in two general ways by the university researcher:
      • 1) in response to a published solicitation (solicited proposal, RFP, BAA, PA); or
      • 2) initiated by the investigator (unsolicited proposal).
        • E.g., NIH Parent Announcements
        • http://grants.nih.gov/grants/guide/parent_announcements.htm
  • 9. Unsolicited/Investigator Initiated Proposals
    • Program Description or Program Announcement instead of a solicitation
      • More general statement of interests of funding agency or program
    • Typically the main source of research funding for individual researchers funded by NSF, NIH, DoD
      • Majority of external research funded by NSF (~50%) and NIH (~80%) result from unsolicited proposals
    • Formatting guidelines often in a separate document
      • NSF Grant Proposal Guide
      • NIH SF424 Application Guide
      • DoD long-term Broad Agency Announcements
  • 10. Funding unlikely to pan out…
    • Grand visions
    • Ambitious plans to improve the world
    • Administrative infrastructures
    • Bricks & mortar
    • Unfocused ideas & enthusiasm
  • 11. If you don’t write grants, you won’t get any
    • Target the proposal at the intersection where:
      • research dollars are available ;
      • your research interests are met;
      • a competitive proposal can be written within the time available.
  • 12. Searching for funding
    • Develop search protocols to fit research interests;
    • Know relevant agencies;
    • Learn grant cycles.
  • 13. Search in the right places
    • Talk to funded colleagues in your discipline
    • Read research publications for references to funding sources
  • 14. Focus on your research interests
  • 15. Searching for research funding
    • Define a general disciplinary domain of interest (e.g., science, social science, humanities, education, health and biomedical sciences, engineering, etc.);
    • Characterize the nature of the research interests within the disciplinary domain (basic, applied, applications, contract, mission agency);
    • Identify funding agencies whose mission, strategic plan, and investment priorities are aligned with the specific research interests;
  • 16. Searching for research funding
    • Further align research interests with funding agency funding opportunities by:
      • review past funding solicitations,
      • review agency mission statements,
      • review strategic investment plans and related documentation.
  • 17.  
  • 18.  
  • 19.  
  • 20.  
  • 21. Grants. gov
    • The Grants.gov web portal serves as a single point of access for all federal agency grant announcements. New funding announcements from federal agency are posted to this site daily, and a range of other features allow subscribing to email funding alerts, linking to agency web sites, and searching for funding among agencies.
  • 22. Grants.gov Funding Email Alerts
  • 23. Search Grants.gov Opportunities
  • 24.  
  • 25.  
  • 26. Solicitation Modifications
    • RSS feeds and email alerts also post modifications to program announcements that are made prior to the due dates
    • This is particularly important for DoD BAAs that have long open periods, or RFPs from mission agencies
    • Grants.gov New/Modified Opps by Agency
    • http://www07.grants.gov/rss/GG_OppModByAgency.xml
  • 27. RSS Funding Feeds GrantsNet Funding RSS Feeds http://sciencecareers.sciencemag.org/funding/ Listing of EPA RSS Feeds http://www.epa.gov/newsroom/rssfeeds.htm ED.gov RSS News Feed http://www.ed.gov/news/newsletters/rssnewsfeed.html Listing of NIH RSS Feeds http://www.nih.gov/news/rss.htm NSF RSS Feeds and Podcasts http://www.nsf.gov/rss/
  • 28. RSS Funding Feeds Grants.gov New/Modified Opps by Category http://www07.grants.gov/rss/GG_OppModByCategory.xml Grants.gov New/Modified Opps by Agency http://www07.grants.gov/rss/GG_OppModByAgency.xml Subscribe to NEH's RSS Feed http://www.neh.gov/whoweare/rss.html USDA/CSREES RSS Feeds http://www.csrees.usda.gov/newsroom/rss.html
  • 29.  
  • 30. Funding Resource Links NASA Open and Future Research Solicitations http://nspires.nasaprs.com/external/solicitations/solicitations.do?method=init DO Energy, Office of Science, Open Funding http://www.sc.doe.gov/grants/grants.html Defense Sciences Office Current Solicitations http://www.darpa.mil/dso/solicitations/solicit.htm Upcoming Grant Due Dates at NSF & NIH http://grants2.nih.gov/grants/guide/index.html http://www.nsf.gov/funding/pgm_list.jsp?org=NSF&ord=date
  • 31. Funding Resource Links NIH New Investigators Program http://grants.nih.gov/grants/new_investigators/index.htm Grant for Young Investigators/Junior Faculty By Lynnette Hentges University of New Hampshire http://www.unh.edu/osr/funding/support/young_pi.pdf Funding for New Faculty University of Massachusetts, Amherst http://www.umass.edu/research/ogca/funding/newfacultydisc.html Research Funding for New & Young Faculty University of California, Berkeley http://www.spo.berkeley.edu/Fund/newfaculty.html
  • 32. Funding Resource Links Subscribe to NEH's RSS Feed http://www.neh.gov/whoweare/rss.html Research Funding Opportunities in Humanities The Melbern G. Glasscock Center for Humanities Research Texas A&M University http://glasscockcenter.blogspot.com/ (funding blog) ACLS Competitions and Deadlines, 2008-09 http://www.acls.org/grants/Single.aspx?id=352 Funding Sources in the Social Sciences http://deanofthefaculty.vassar.edu:80/grants/announcements/sources_socsci.html Vassar College Grants Office
  • 33. Funding Resource Links Research Support Newsletter, UNC-Chapel Hill http:// research.unc.edu/rs / Virginia Tech Funding Opportunities http://www.research.vt.edu/funding/ou/update.html University of Iowa Grants Bulletin http://research.uiowa.edu/grantbulletin/index.php Duke Funding Alert Newsletter http://researchfunding.duke.edu/ Electronic Funding Alert Services http://opd.tamu.edu/funding-opportunities/electronic-funding-alert-services-email-alerts
  • 34. Analyzing the RFP & Its Role in Proposal Development
    • By Mike Cronan, PE (inactive)
      • Office of Proposal Development
      • Office of Research & Graduate Studies
      • Texas A&M University
    • 305 J. K. Williams Administration Building (845-1811)
    • http://opd.tamu.edu/
  • 35. What is a Solicitation?
    • It is an invitation by a funding agency for applicants to submit requests for funding in research areas of interest to the agency .
  • 36. What is in the Solicitation?
    • The key information you will need to develop and write a competitive proposal that is fully responsive to an agency’s
      • submission process,
      • research objectives,
      • review criteria, and
      • budget requirements.
  • 37. What it is; what it is not
    • The RFP is a non-negotiable listing of performance expectations reflecting the goals and research objectives of the funding agency.
    • The RFP is not a menu or smorgasbord offering the applicant a choice of addressing some topics but not others, depending on interest, or some review criteria but not others.
  • 38. No irrational exuberance!!
    • Understand the RFP for what it is… not what you want it to be…
    • It is not a speculative investment…
    • Invest your time, resources, and energy wisely
  • 39. The RFP as Treasure Map
    • Follow directions
    • Review step by step
    • Understand it
    • Understood by all PIs
    • Keep focused
    • Don’t wander off path
    • Continuously calibrate ideas, objectives, and details to the RFP
  • 40. Map your expertise to the RFP
    • Is it a fit?
    • Is it really a fit?
      • No partial fits allowed
      • No wishful thinking
      • Close doesn’t count
    • If you are not a fit—don’t submit!
  • 41. Relationship to Program Officer
    • Never be hesitant about contacting a program officer for clarifications—
    • timidity is never rewarded in the competitive proposal process, but
    • ambiguities are always punished!
  • 42. Reviewing the RFP
    • Clarify ambiguities; if unresolved--
    • Get clarification from a program officer.
    • Ambiguities need to be resolved prior to proposal writing so the proposal narrative maps to the guidelines with informed certainty.
  • 43. Never be Timid!
  • 44. The RFP as Reference Point
    • It is used continuously throughout proposal development and writing as a reference point to ensure that an evolving proposal narrative fully addresses and accurately reflects the goals and objectives of the funding agency, including the review criteria.
  • 45. Role of RFP in Proposal Organization
    • Use the RFP to develop the structure, order, and detail of the proposal narrative.
    • Use the RFP as an organizational template during proposal development to help ensure every RFP requirement is addressed fully.
  • 46. Keep on Track
    • Copy and paste the RFP’s key sections, research objectives, and review criteria into the first draft of the proposal narrative
    • The RFP then serves as an organizational template for the proposal and a reference point to ensure subsequent draft iterations of the narrative are continuously calibrated to the guidelines .
  • 47. RFP template ensures a proposal
    • Fully responsive to all requested information,
    • Written in the order requested,
    • Provides the required detail,
    • Integrates review criteria into the narrative, and
    • Does not drift off topic or sequence.
  • 48. Address the Review Criteria in the RFP
    • The description of review criteria is a key part of the RFP.
    • A competitive proposal must clearly address each review criterion, and the proposal should be structured so that these discussions are easy for reviewers to find.
    • Subject headings, graphics, bullets, and bolded statements using language similar to that used in the RFP can all be used to make the reviewers’ jobs easier.
  • 49. Read Material Referenced in RFP
    • If the RFP refers or links to publications, reports, or workshops:
      • Read the referenced materials
      • Understand how the references influenced the agency’s vision of the program
      • Cite those publications in the proposal as appropriate
      • Demonstrate in the narrative you are fluent with the ideas underpinning the RFP.
  • 50. Analyzing the Agency Culture, Mission & Research Priorities
    • By Mike Cronan, PE (inactive)
      • Office of Proposal Development
      • Office of Research & Graduate Studies
      • Texas A&M University
    • 305 J. K. Williams Administration Building (845-1811)
    • http://opd.tamu.edu/
  • 51. Analyzing the Funding Agency
    • Analyzing the mission, strategic plan, investment priorities, and culture of a funding agency provides information key to enhancing proposal competitiveness.
  • 52. Why Analyze the Funding Agency?
    • To better understand several key elements common to every competitive proposal narrative:
    • Who is the audience ?
    • How do you best address that audience?
    • What is a fundable idea within the context of the agency’s research priorities ?
    • How are claims of research uniqueness and innovation best supported in the proposal text?
    • What arguments are likely to be most compelling in communicating your passion, excitement, commitment, and capacity to perform the proposed research to reviewers and program officers?
  • 53. Know Your Audience
    • Understanding an agency’s mission, strategic plan, research culture, investment priorities, and the rationale behind them helps you weave a compelling and competitive proposal narrative.
    • It helps you better describe how your research plan maps to the research goals detailed in the RFP and advances the agency’s larger research plan.
    • Convincing program officers and reviewers that your research advances the agency’s research objectives is a key factor in the decision to fund or not fund your proposal.
  • 54. Don’t Reinvent the Flat Tire
    • Know research currently funded by the agency
    • Where does your research fit in that context?
    • Is your research a priority at the agency?
  • 55. Search for Competitive “Informational Gold Nuggets”
    • Successful proposals represent an accumulation of marginal advantage ;
    • Funding success occurs at the boundaries of excellence ;
    • “ Good” is not good enough!
  • 56. What to look for
    • Mission statements
    • Research culture
    • Investment priority
    • Strategic plan
    • Org chart
    • Management
    • Program officers
    • Reports, pubs
    • Workshops
    • Language
    • Web speeches
    • Public testimony
    • Review process
    • Project abstracts
    • Current funding
    • Solicitations
  • 57. Know the Context of Your Research NIH Roadmap for Medical Research http://nihroadmap.nih.gov:80/ The Transformative R01 Program (T-R01s) will allow highly creative, “out-of-the-box” projects to be supported in any area of research that falls within the NIH mission. What’s New in Federal Research Budget: R&D Budget & Policy Updates http://www.aaas.org/spp/rd/new.htm NIH Workshops and Seminars http://grants1.nih.gov/grants/outreach.htm Investing in America’s Future, NSF Strategic Plan FY 2006-2011 http://www.nsf.gov/pubs/2006/nsf0648/nsf0648.jsp
  • 58. Analyzing the Agency Mission
    • Funding agencies have a clearly defined agenda and mission.
    • Funded grants are those that best advance the mission of the funding agency.
    • If a proposal does not meet an agency's mission, it will not be funded.
  • 59. Map Your Research to the Agency
    • A good idea is required but alone is not sufficient
    • Agencies only fund good ideas that are clearly developed and tightly linked to their mission, vision, and strategic plan as represented by the research objectives stated in the RFP.
  • 60. Understand the Research Culture
    • Understanding the research culture of the funding agency helps you to more knowledgably embed your proposed research plan within the research focus and context of the agency.
    • While NSF and NIH both fund research in the biological sciences, they often fund research in very different areas under that umbrella.
    • Sometimes the differences are clear, and in other cases more nuanced, but the distinctions are there, and you need to be aware of them.
  • 61. Understanding Agency Types
    • Differentiate between basic research agencies (e.g., NSF, NIH) and mission-focused agencies (e.g. DOD, NASA, USDA).
    • Differentiate between hypothesis-driven research and need- or applications driven research.
    • Differentiate research at disciplinary boundaries, e.g., social sciences, biological
  • 62. Basic Research Agencies
    • Independent agency and management
    • Independent research vision, mission, and objectives
    • Award criteria based on intellectual and scientific excellence
    • Peer panel reviewed, ranked, and awarded by merit
    • Focus on fundamental or basic research at the “frontiers of science,” innovation, and creation of new knowledge
    • Open ended, exploratory, long investment horizon
    • Non-classified, non-proprietary
  • 63. Mission Agencies
    • Scope of work tightly defines research tasks/deliverables
    • Predominately applied research for meeting near-term objectives, technology development and transfer, policy goals
    • Predominately internal review by program officers
    • Awards based on merit, but also on geographic distribution, political distribution, long term relationship with agency, Legislative, and Executive branch policies
    • Classified and non-classified research
  • 64. Intramural vs. Extramural Research
    • Some agencies fund only research by outside scientists ( extramural research ), while many also hire researchers who conduct research from within the agency ( intramural research ).
    • NSF and DARPA are examples of agencies that fund only extramural research, while NIH, NASA, the National Labs, DOE, and many other agencies fund both extramural and intramural research.
    • Furthermore, the proportion of intramural versus extramural research funding varies significantly by agency.
    • The National Labs and NIST primarily fund intramural research, while NIH mostly funds extramural research.
  • 65. Know what was recently funded
    • Learning about recently funded research in your area helps you understand what an agency is looking for in the review process
      • Review abstracts of funded proposals on agency web sites
      • Talk to the principal investigators of funded proposals in your area
      • Obtain copies of funded proposals
        • Ask the PI
        • Ask the agency (funded proposals are public)
  • 66. Know Language of Funding Agency
    • Agencies often speak in a dialect unique to them.
    • Echo the language of the funding agency back to them.
    • This is important in writing the proposal narrative, and helps to frame arguments more clearly and make them more easily understood by program managers and reviewers.
  • 67. Analyze Agency Language
    • Once the funding agency’s language is learned, it allows the appropriate translation to occur between the language of the funding agency and that of the applicant.
    • It often helps the clarity of the narrative text to translate the applicant’s institutional language into that used by the agency’s program officers and reviewers.
    • This is not an onerous or difficult task, but involves being alert to any preferred or repeated terms, usages, and meanings favored by the funding agency.
    • Fluency in the funding agency language and terminology is another factor that will enhance the competitiveness of the proposal narrative.
  • 68. Helpful RSS Feeds Science.gov Web & RSS Feeds http:// www.science.gov / U.S. Government RSS Library http://www.usa.gov/Topics/Reference_Shelf/Libraries/RSS_Library.shtml NIH RSS Feeds http://www.nih.gov/news/rss.htm Nature.com RSS feeds http://www.nature.com:80/webfeeds/index.html RSS feeds for research literature http://libraries.mit.edu/help/rss/feeds.html
  • 69. Federal Awards Made Databases
    • NIH Computer Retrieval of Information on Scientific Projects (CRISP)
    • NIH Extramural Awards By State and Foreign Site
    • NSF Award Data
    • NASA NSPIRES Past Solicitations and Selections
    • Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) Grants On-Line Database (GOLD)
  • 70. Federal Awards Made Databases
    • USDA Current Research Information System
    • Department of Defense (DoD): Congressionally Directed Medical Research
    • Department of Defense (DoD) SBIR/STTR Awards
  • 71. Federal Awards Made Databases
    • Department of Education (ED) Grant Awards
    • Department of Energy ( DoE ) Project Summaries
    • Department of Health and Human Services
    • Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Grants Information and Control System
    • Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) Grants Awarded
  • 72. Federal Awards Made Databases
    • National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Recent Grant Awards
    • Federal R&D Project Summaries and Awards (NIH, NSF, EPA, DoE, USDA, & SBA)
    • Health Services Research Projects in Progress
      • grants and contracts awarded by major public and private funding agencies and foundations.
    • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
      • state by state summaries of awards made
  • 73. Learn about proposals funded by foundations
    • Foundation Center (Find Funders)
      • http://foundationcenter.org/findfunders/
    • Foundation Finder
      • http://lnp.foundationcenter.org/finder.html
    • 990 Finder
      • http://foundationcenter.org/findfunders/990finder/
      • http://foundationcenter.org/findfunders/990pffly.pdf
      • http://foundationcenter.org/getstarted/tutorials/demystify/
  • 74.  
  • 75. Understanding the review process & writing to reviewers
    • By Mike Cronan, PE (inactive)
      • Office of Proposal Development
      • Office of Research & Graduate Studies
      • Texas A&M University
    • 305 J. K. Williams Administration Building (845-1811)
    • http://opd.tamu.edu/
  • 76. Write for the reviewers
    • If I had more
    • time, I would
    • have written
    • you a shorter
    • letter. Mark Twain
  • 77. You must intrigue the reviewers
  • 78. If you don’t intrigue the reviewers..
  • 79. Two general kinds of review criteria
    • Criteria that are overarching and apply to all grants ; e.g.,, intellectual merit and broader impacts at NSF; significance, approach, innovation, investigators, and environment at NIH;
    • The second type of review criteria are specific to the particular program and may be very detailed in terms of expected project objectives and outcomes.
  • 80. Questions common to all reviews
    • Specific review criteria and review processes differ from agency to agency, as well as by program within an agency, but the core questions program officers and reviewers need answered can be simply stated:
      • What do you propose to do?
      • Why it is it important?
      • Why are you able to do it?
      • How will you do it?
      • How does it contribute to the interests and objectives of the agency and program?
  • 81. Simple but challenging questions
    • Your challenge is to answer these questions in a clear, convincing way that is easily accessible to the reviewers…not a simple task.
      • You must craft a persuasive argument presenting the merit, significance, rigor, and relevance of your research
      • You must convince reviewers you have the capacity to perform and the institutional infrastructure to support your research
      • You must extend your argument to discuss the likely impact your research will have in advancing the field and creating new knowledge, both in your research area and possibly in other research fields as well
  • 82.  
  • 83. How Your Proposal is Reviewed NIH Peer Review Policies & Practices http:// grants.nih.gov /grants/peer/ NIH Peer Review Guidelines & Information http://cms.csr.nih.gov/ResourcesforApplicants/PolicyProcedureReview+Guidelines/ Six Merit Review Facts from NSF http://www.nsf.gov/bfa/dias/policy/meritreview/facts.jsp NSF Report to National Science Board http://www.nsf.gov/nsb/publications/2008/nsb0847_merit_review_2007.pdf NSF Overview of Merit Review http://www.nsf.gov/bfa/dias/policy/meritreview/
  • 84. How Your Proposal is Reviewed Peer Review Process of Research Applications Centers for Disease Control and Prevention http://www.cdc.gov/od/science/PHResearch/peerreview.htm DOE Office of Science Merit Review System http:// www.sc.doe.gov/grants/merit.html How Your Proposal is Merit Reviewed at the Department of Energy http:// www.sc.doe.gov/grants/process.html Peer Review NIH Research Grant Applications http://ora.stanford.edu/supporting_files/peer_review.pdf Anthony M. Coelho, Jr., Ph.D., Review Policy Officer, Office of the Director NIH
  • 85.  
  • 86.  
  • 87.  
  • 88.  
  • 89.  
  • 90. Addressing review criteria
    • A competitive proposal must clearly address each review criterion, and the proposal should be structured so that these discussions are easy for reviewers to find, compare, and contrast.
  • 91. The funded proposal
    • The author of a funded proposal has accomplished the basic goal of grant writing—
      • Ensured the reviewers were intrigued and excited about the proposed research
      • Understood its significance
      • Were confident in the researcher’s capacity to perform.
  • 92. Makes clear to reviewers
    • Moreover, the successful author has made clear to the reviewers
      • What research will be done,
      • Why it is significant,
      • What existing research forms the underpinnings of the proposed effort,
      • How the proposed research will be accomplished.
  • 93. Addressing review criteria
    • The description of review criteria is a key part of the solicitation.
    • The description of review criteria is a key part of the proposal template .
    • Make the reviewers job easier by using language similar to that used in the solicitation.
  • 94.  
  • 95. Pained by reviewer comments? Get over it!
  • 96.  
  • 97. Resubmitting proposals
    • Take reviewers’ comments to heart
    • Somewhere between advisory & mandatory
    • Assess next step:
      • Start over
      • Major renovation
      • Minor renovation
    • Re-conceptualize
    • Drop the idea
  • 98. Writing a Competitive Proposal Narrative & Project Summary
    • By Mike Cronan, PE (inactive)
      • Office of Proposal Development
      • Office of Research & Graduate Studies
      • Texas A&M University
    • 305 J. K. Williams Administration Building (845-1811)
    • http://opd.tamu.edu/
  • 99. The proposal is the reality
    • A proposal is not unlike a novel or a movie. It creates its own, self-contained reality. The proposal contains all the funding agency and review panel will know about your capabilities and your capacity to perform. With few exceptions, an agency bases its decision to fund or not fund entirely on the proposal and the persuasive reality it creates.
  • 100. Charles Mingus on Grant Writing
    • Making the simple complicated is commonplace; making the complicated simple, awesomely simple, that's creativity.
  • 101. Writing the proposal narrative
    • Contrary to what some people seem to believe, simple writing is not the product of simple minds. A simple, unpretentious style has both grace and power. By not calling attention to itself, it allows the reader to focus on the message.--Richard Lederer and Richards Dowis, Sleeping Dogs Don't Lay , 1999.
  • 102. Albert Einstein on Grant Writing
    • If you can't explain something simply, you don't understand it well.
    • Most of the fundamental ideas of science are essentially simple, and may, as a rule, be expressed in language comprehensible to everyone.
  • 103. Introductory writing tips
    • Sell your proposal to a good researcher but not an expert
    • Some review panels may not have an expert in your field, or panels may be blended for multidisciplinary initiatives
    • Agencies & reviewers fund compelling, exciting research, not just correct research
    • Proposals are not journal articles—proposals must be user friendly and offer a narrative that tells a story that is memorable to reviewers
  • 104. Narrative iterations
    • If I had more time, I would have written you a shorter letter. Mark Twain
  • 105. Goal of the narrative
    • The goal for the proposal narrative at the time of submittal is that it be a well written document that responds fully, clearly, and persuasively to the research goals and objectives and review criteria defined by the sponsor in the funding solicitation.
  • 106.  
  • 107. The competitive narrative
    • Synthesizes ideas and detail
    • Connects ideas to performance details
    • Develops order, logic, transitions, and connectedness
    • Integrates research ideas
    • Provides a common structure to meld disciplinary strands
    • Makes ideas accessible to others
    • Converges on a common language
    • Requires persistence, continuous revisions, and many draft iterations to converge on perfection
  • 108. Key Narrative Elements
    • Project summary
      • Format, topics, and scope most often defined in RFP
    • Proposal introduction
      • Format, topics, and scope most often discretionary
    • Project description
      • Format, topics, and scope clearly defined and ordered in RFP
  • 109. Role of the Project Summary
    • Captures the interest of reviewers
    • Defines the core idea clearly
    • Describes concisely the connectedness of the core idea to specific research activities and outcomes
    • Serves as a conceptual and relational roadmap to the proposal narrative
  • 110. The proposal introduction
    • Serves as a “mini-proposal”
    • Connects the vision, ideas, goals, research objectives, and outcomes
    • Makes a compelling case for research significance and uniqueness
    • Organizes the conceptual framework of the narrative,
    • Tells who you are; what you are going to do; how you are going to do it; who is going to do it; why you are going to do it; and demonstrates your capacity to perform
    • Inspires reviewers to read closely and with interest the more detailed narrative
  • 111. Role of the Proposal Narrative-1
    • Responds fully to sponsor’s requirements
    • Incubator of ideas by draft iterations
    • Enforces rigor, clarity, and simplicity
      • Tames excesses, defines boundaries, forces connections
    • Transforms ideas and anchors them in a common reality and research context
      • A reality & context shared by colleagues, program officers, and review panelists
    • Tests ideas in a “language lab”
      • What seems like a “good idea” can be illusory
      • Verbal epiphanies at meetings are illusive
  • 112. Role of the Proposal Narrative-2
    • Synthesizes ideas and detail
      • Connects ideas to performance details
      • Develops order, logic, transitions, and connectedness
      • Helps the timing, logistics, and collaborations of proposal development
    • Integrates collaborators’ ideas
      • Provides a common structure to meld disciplinary strands
    • Makes ideas accessible to others
      • Program officers, reviewers
    • A competitive narrative requires persistence, continuous revisions, and many draft iterations to converge on perfection
  • 113.  
  • 114.  
  • 115.  
  • 116. Poor planning Everybody has a plan--until they are shot at , Colin Powell
    • Match the RFP
    • Schedule a timeline
    • Start proposal early
    • Partnerships take more time
    • Collaborator compatibility
    • Let ideas develop slowly
    • No midnight warriors
    • Periodic calibration to RFP
    • Define and schedule development tasks
    • Anticipate the unexpected
  • 117. Poor Process Planning
    • What do you control?
      • Proposal narrative
      • Collaborators
      • Budget
    • What do others control?
      • Routing & signatures
      • Budget approvals
      • Submission
      • Data requests
      • Institutional support
  • 118. Keep focused on development tasks
    • Define and develop goals & objectives
    • Plan narrative iterations
    • Who does what and when
    • Review and assess progress of goals & objectives
    • Budget process by task
  • 119. Anticipate the unexpected
    • Some ideas don’t work out
    • Some partnerships don’t work out
    • Some budgets don’t work out
    • Some proposals don’t work out
  • 120. Craft of narrative writing
    • Good writing lies at the core of the competitive proposal. It is the framework for crafting and structuring the arguments, ideas, concepts, goals, performance commitments, and the logical, internal connectedness and balance of the proposal.
  • 121. Good writing is more than mechanics
    • Strong, comprehensive, integrated knowledge base;
    • Organizational clarity (stepwise logic/connections; sequencing);
    • Structural clarity (integrative logic; logical transitions)
    • Argumentative clarity (reasoning; ordering; synthesis)
    • Capacity for synthesis
    • Connect, connect, connect
  • 122. Good writing is more than mechanics
    • Descriptive clarity (who, what, how, when, why, & results)
    • Clear, consistent vision sustained throughout text
    • Establishes confidence in your performance and excitement for your ideas by reviewers
  • 123. 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 perfect.
    • George A. Hazelrigg, National Science Foundation
  • 124. Internal consistency & synthesis
    • A competitive proposal must be internally consistent by language, structure, and argument;
    • All internal ambiguities must be resolved.
    • The competitiveness of a proposal increases exponentially with the capacity of the author to synthesize information.
  • 125. Internal consistency & synthesis
    • Synthesis represents the relational framework and conceptual balance of the proposal.
    • It is the synaptic connections among concepts, ideas, arguments, goals, objectives, and performance.
  • 126. Ideas matter (Slogans are not Ideas)
    • Shaping ideas by language is hard work.
    • Do not confuse slogans, effusive exuberance, and clichés with substantive ideas.
    • Show the reviewers something new by developing ideas that are clear, concise, coherent, contextually logical, and insightful.
    • Capitalize on every opportunity you have to define, link, relate, expand, synthesize, connect, or illuminate ideas as you write the narrative.
    • Connect, connect, connect! (E.M. Forrester).
  • 127. Beware of boiler plate
    • Boiler plate refers only to the application forms required by the agency, not the narrative
    • Thinking of the proposal narrative as “boiler plate” will result in a mediocre proposal
    • Begin each proposal as a new effort, not a copy & paste; be cautious integrating text inserts
    • Strong proposals clearly reflect a coherent, sustained, and integrated argument grounded on good ideas
  • 128. Finally…Be confident