3 responses to “Proposals: Initial Thoughts”

  1. Daniel

    1. Proposals are one of my favorite things to do. Full of potential and promise for exciting (and funded!) research in the years ahead. I’ve had my fair share of last minute scrambles. While the experience isn’t too bad, I recently submitted my first proposal that was ready well ahead of time and I noticed two things: First, it was a _much_ less stressful experience. Second, I believe the quality of the proposal was much higher. I’m often stunned when I review my own proposals 2-3 months later and find typos, lack of clarity, etc. In fact, I strongly suggest reviewing your own proposals months after submission but before the reviews come back – just so you can spot some of your own weaknesses in proposal writing without being able to blame it on a mean reviewer.

    2. Amen. I had the opportunity to write some proposals as a staff member before I was a faculty member. I can’t imagine being in a solo faculty position with responsibility for getting my own funding without any proposal writing experience. I would love to see better proposal writing in classes – the “proposals” I was asked to write as a student in class were nothing compared to a real proposal.

    3. Working well with others is key in group proposal writing. I’ve found that everyone has different parts of a proposal that they enjoy working on more than others. I really enjoy the budgets – something about spending money. Others really enjoy the literature review, the methodology, etc. Others are really good at making the case for the proposal with respect to the agency’s mission or theme. Find your strength and weaknesses and play to your strengths when you can. Being upfront about abilities and research interests will not only help in the writing but also in the doing if the proposal is funded. Don’t overpromise. Be sure you can deliver.

    4. I had a really trying experience where one of the collaborators insisted on including some work that was really not directly relevant to the work the rest of the group was proposing. Unfortunately he wasn’t someone we could remove from the group without creating problems administratively – so we did our best to massage his sections to match the overall project goals.

    5. For public universities, the budget is often available to the public which can provide some of the info you noted. If you’re required to do a very detailed budget, it can be a real opportunity to test how well defined your proposal is – if it is well defined the budget should be pretty straightforward (barring political issues of who gets what % across colleges/departments – this can be interesting). If you have problems figuring out the budget, it may indicate that you don’t have a good plan.

    Nice article.

  2. Cherish The Scientist

    The nice thing about where I work is that I’m starting to get involved in this process, as well. (So, I’m getting the experience while a grad student.) I’ve done some internal ‘proposals’ (very informal), and got a good handle on the process when my husband submitted his PhD project as an NSF proposal…but it’s still weird being closer to the planning stage.

    You’re definitely right. I notice that people want everyone to work on their projects, their ideas are the best, etc. Not that they’re unwilling, but when you have limited time, you can’t work on everything that people propose. And focus is a good thing.

  3. T-minus 1 month and counting | Engineer Blogs

    […] countingBy GEARS on August 2, 2011 Lately, I’ve been discussing a lot about proposals (see here and here) and some work outside of academia but I’ve only briefly touched on the some of […]