Follow NSF, NIH, and journal instructions meticulously

Pay attention to exactly what the funding agencies, journals, and other recipients of your hard work want and give it to them. There is no excuse for sloppiness at this stage. I know you are exhausted from working out the details of your experiments. You are tired of showing exactly how these are the experiments that are key to answering the big questions you posed in the introduction. You want peace. But you also want funding and acceptance. So take the extra time to be sure you have followed the instructions meticulously.

We have just been sent a new Grant Proposal Guide from NSF. Read it. Follow the instructions. Make a checklist for yourself, or find one someone else has made (but check it). Do this carefully. The referees will be told to use these new elements in evaluating your proposal, so make sure it is easy for them to find what they want. Make this kind of care general to your work, your paper submitting, and your mentoring of students.

I know I tell you often to focus on the big ideas, to write a proposal that shines in how it tackles important interdisciplinary issues. It is true that this is important, that your structure should go from general to specific, with transitions that flow so naturally your reader will think she thought of the experiments herself, so appropriate do they seem. After you craft this elegant proposal, look carefully back through it. Look again at the instructions. Have you addressed every detail? Have you given the busy reviewer a little self-help key so that when they look for the piece to write on one issue, you have basically written it for them?

Don’t be shy. Make the largest linkages you can to show the proposal will “advance knowledge and understanding within its own field and across different fields,” and will “benefit society or advance desired societal outcomes.” The more you read broadly and extensively, the more diverse seminars you attend, the more you stretch yourself, the easier this sort of thing will be.

For now, just remember, any NSF proposal going in after 14 January 2013 has to conform to the new GPG. Good luck!

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About Joan E. Strassmann

Evolutionary biologist, studies social behavior in insects & microbes, interested in education, travel, birds, tropics, nature, food; biology professor at Washington University in St. Louis
This entry was posted in Grant proposals, Publishing your work and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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