Office of Sponsored Programs
Beating the Success Rate with Research Proposals
from the Petroleum Res. Council
Moving from good/average science to excellent
1. Why are you writing a proposal?
- One of the two ways you relate yourself to your peers (papers and others). - PEERS ARE REVIEWERS
- The process makes you smarter - gives you a better grasp of project after proposal is written
- Discover unexpected problems
- Find unforeseen insights
-Not just a chore but a creative act.
2. What makes a bad proposal
A) Really bad
- Scientific non-viable
- Does not fit mission
- PI ineligible
- Institution/dept. ineligible
- Proposal violates guidelines: Format, Length, Budget
- Use of out-of-date forms Call the agency - Most interesting part of the day - If you want to get good proposals
- DEAD STUFF WALKING- obsolete topic, approach, bibliography
- Limited significance and impact
- Logical Flaws: nonexclusive hypothesis alternative hypotheses
- Project beyond capabilities of investigators, institution, students
- Vague language ==> MUST BE CONCRETE
- Poor organization; Rambling ; Number pages (all the pages)
- Ideas that do not illuminate point of the proposal
- Mystery budget (provide summary and detail -Explain costs over 5% )
- Implications of research not spelled out (broad impact or only local impact?)
- Funder's priority not emphasized
- Breezy and informal language
- Impractical in time and money
- Research should lead to other research or some other impact beyond the interests of the researcher
3. Excellent Proposal (Top 15-20% proposals)
A)Significant problem and well organized narrative. ==> readers can have short attention span
- Short sentence
- Short paragraphs
- No extraneous language
- Subheads w/subsection labels or tags
- Approach in a practical and realistic way
- me, here , now
- Support letters if collaborating
- Describe experiments for which any imaginative result can be expected in terms of the hypothesis presented. - MUST HAVE HYPOTHESIS
- Describe impacts of results to be obtained and explain why it is worth achieving - Not: We need $, We need stuff, I need a raise - THIS WHY YOU DO RESEARCH.
- Preliminary Results that support Viability of project and ability and resources of PI to carry out projects
B) ABSTRACT: Heart and soul of Ideas with all nuts and bolts stripped away to show scientific value.
1. Program Officer uses Abstracts to direct to the right review, panel/committee for evaluation.
2. Peer reviewer uses to target themselves at key issues of you proposal - starts understanding of idea.
3. Panel review uses to establish initial rank and then to base rest of proposal against
Q & A
1. Fine Line
- Capability and beyond capability
- Preliminary and Final results: Quick & Dirty to show
- Giving away the shop
2. Background In Abstract?
- Little to none. Focus on project and implications
3. Potential Reviewers List
- List the God and Goddesses and other folks (younger colleagues) 1 or 2/person/round
- Want 3 or 4, give 5 or 6
- Other reviewers too
- List PUI faculty as well
4. Cost Sharing
- Follow rules if there are rules
- Establish commitment, especially if equipment will be used outside the bounds of the project
- Be realistic and balanced
5. Best Stuff First
- Page 1: Not a mystery novel reader will loose interest. Use pictures, equations
- Page 10 Ten Mistakes - Corrections
- Do homework - show references: show expertise, especially what the funding agency has supported.
- Research: acknowledge obstacles and express alternatives/contingencies
- Write clearly, concisely - avoid jargon
- Customize for each funder you send proposal to
- FOLLOW DIRECTIONS; FORMAT GUIDE
- WRITE SO PROPOSAL CAN BE READ FIRST TIME
-Get reader to read without making notes and tell you what you said: wrong-start rewriting!
-Start writing outlines, table-of-contents
-Write project in one page
-Create little last - so that it is truly representative
-Ask for what you need: "Oh my God - What have I done?
-Find balance between timidity and arrogance about yourself
-Call The Funders - they will help with the design because they want good proposals
-Show passion, urgency: This is important NOW. Take proposal beyond the intellectual. · Write for your readers. Establishes writing style.
-"Expect funders to support your goals, not theirs." WRITE TO THEIR MISSION
-Match funds according to funder guidelines- do not overmatch. This can be a problem at both ends.
-Talk to people at or around campus while developing proposal/project. Early and often, get investment/ownership