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How to get that first grant: A young scientist’s guide to (AI) funding in America Jim Hendler University of Maryland All opinions are the author’s and.

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Presentation on theme: "How to get that first grant: A young scientist’s guide to (AI) funding in America Jim Hendler University of Maryland All opinions are the author’s and."— Presentation transcript:

1 How to get that first grant: A young scientist’s guide to (AI) funding in America Jim Hendler University of Maryland All opinions are the author’s and do not reflect official policy of the AAAI, the University, the US government or any other fund-granting organization

2 This is not a grant writing seminar! 4 Many places offer grant writing seminars –If you think you need help WRITING a grant, take one. 4 Offered by Universities, US Govt, others –You should be able to take one at low cost or free, high cost ones also exist 4 This talk focuses at a different level than those seminars –grant strategies as opposed to writing tips

3 Outline 4 Entre Acte: grant writing is a skill 4 Background: the main funders of AI/CS –Corporate –DoD services –DARPA 4 Grant Advice –some hints from researchers and funding agts

4 Entre Acte 4 The SCIENCE must be there –Doing good science is a necessary condition to receiving any grant from anyone –It is not, however, sufficient 4 Getting a grant is not a “game” –it is a skill (like writing a good paper, giving a good talk, etc.) –Like these other skills it cannot be easily taught, but there are pointers and tips that can help

5 Terminology: Gifts, Grants, Contracts 4 Gifts have few strings attached –Corporate Education Funds –Industrial Affiliates Programs 4 Grants are “monitored” –Deliverables generally underspecified –PM primarily interested in the Science 4 Contracts, legal documents –Deliverables specified –PM has specific programmatic goals –PM may often direct/re-direct efforts stringsstrings attachedattached LOW HIGH $ $ $

6 AI/CS funders 4 Where do grants and contracts come from? –Companies –The National Science Foundation –The Department of Defense Darpa Service Funding programs Labs –Other Govt Agencies NIH, NLM, DoE, NASA, etc. 4 The DoD funds more than 80% of CS research in the US! (not incl. High performance computing)

7 Corporate Funding

8 Corporate Contracts 4 Corporate funds generally answer to “The Bottom Line” –Your research must be “value added” one exception is education/training function Gift funds, unusual but not unheard of –usually small compared to a contract –You need to show where it will have a real, and usually fairly direct impact Corporate contracts generally have strings attached in the form of deliverables –prototypes –improvements to their systems

9 Corporate Contract Caution 4 (Local) Corporations are often interested in more than your technology –Your name on their grants –Your school’s reputation –YOUR STUDENTS 4 Take this as both opportunity and caution –Your name is an asset you should keep control over –Companies may be more interested in the university’s CS undergrads, rather than your grad students You can end up a local corporate recruiter -- for better or worse

10 Corporate Contract tips 4 Personal contacts are everything –Work closely with groups at local corporations –Take advantage of university contacts 4 The written proposal is often a “formality” –money is committed based on statement of work –but may be needed for higher level Often require iterations and patience 4 Pitfall: Legal issues –make sure licensing/patenting etc. are worked out in advance (if applicable)

11 Government Funding

12 US Government Funding 4 Important to understand the mechanics –How is funding announced? RFPs and BAAs –How is govt funding categorized? –Who makes the funding decisions? Funding Decision making Program Oversight

13 Calls for proposals BAA: Broad Agency Announcement RFP: Request for Proposal –Goals of Program –Requirements for Proposers –Format of proposal –Program Budget –Deadlines and dates –Where to look for further information –Who is in charge

14 Finding out about funding 4 All govt external funding (BAA/RFP) must be announced in the “Commerce Business Daily” –but that goes way beyond AI/CS 4 Fedix Alert is a push service (keyword based) for routing CBD announcements –but free service doesn’t include all agencies (incl. DARPA) 4 Agencies announce RFPS & BAAs on their Web sites –But this means you need to monitor

15 Tips 4 Many universities/companies have someone who monitors the CBD –You need to search them out if your school/company doesn’t have an active grants group (ORAA) 4 The PMs send out to lists of people they think might be interested –some of the folks in your community are likely to know Form Alliances (it is NOT a zero-sum game!) –If your PM knows your work you are more likely to be informed more on this later

16 Government Funding Types Basic research Exploratory Development Advanced Technology Development 4 (6.4 Development, Test and Evaluation) 4 (6.5 Management and support)

17 Funding Decisions 4 Virtually all federal grants receive some sort of peer review –Scientific Review Panels (NSF, NIH) –External Reviewers (NSF, AFOSR, ONR, ARL) –Source Selection Teams (DARPA, DoE, etc,) –Different agencies give PMs differing constraints re. these reviews Regardless, someone must be impressed by your proposal NLM/NIH NSF DoD DoE Panel/Reviewer Recommendations NASA

18 Program Managers 4 The PM is a scientist or a scientific manager who has proven him/herself to be very knowledgable –solid scientific background in their field 4 The PM has different scientific objectives than yours –yours: Give talks, Publish papers, get grants –PMs: Give talks, Publish papers, get grants but very different than yours

19 Program Manager’s Needs 4 The PM must defend his/her program to higher management –Program Objectives How it will have scientific &/or military impact –What great research/researchers have been supported Awards won Papers written Transitions to industrial or military development 4 Your work must help him/her do this!

20 National Science Foundation

21 NSF Requests for Proposal (RFP) 4 NSF accepts two kinds of proposals –Unsolicited (Sent in on “open” RFP) goes to a PM in an area for action Reviewed by panel or by external reviewers –Special Programs Yearly –Career –Instrumentation Big “one of”s –KDI, Govt I, RI

22 NSF Open RFP 4 Objective: Support best basic research –Typically have one or two Pis academic researcher –generally small $50-100k/yr –Stress personnel support –PI support –Grad Students 4 Review criteria: Scientific basis, work plan –Lack of work plan is #1 rejection reason

23 NSF Special RFPs 4 Science with specific characteristics –Support some specific govt objective –encourage interdisciplinary research –provide research infrastructure for universities 4 Features –Multi-PI (often multi-dept, university) –Some go to $1M/yr or more –Personnel and infrastructure

24 NSF RFPs cont. 4 NSF Special Programs are a very good way for a younger researcher to get funding –but generally NOT as PI Especially good for interdisciplinary or team-oriented researchers 4 These larger grants are team oriented –Most common error: Team is formed for sake of grant Grant makes that obvious –Common Example: N PIs, N sections, each section has one author

25 NSF Career Awards 4 NSF has a special program for young researchers –Science Based (whatever you may have heard) grant is more important than track record –Panel reviewed Your work must stand out among similar projects Not everyone will be a specialist in your subarea 4 Most common errors –This is a grant, not a thesis chapter! –Lack of enthusiasm (overly passive writing) –“Trust me” doesn’t work in this program Assume everyone else is as good as you are!

26 NSF tip 4 NSF is one of the few govt CSD funders that returns reviews –USE the reviews to revise and resubmit your grant Never resubmit without serious rework/rethinking –Assume the reviewers will be similar Assume the mistaken review was YOUR fault –Pretend you must have written it wrong if you could have given such a misleading impression »(Example: If the reviewer says you didn’t discuss X, but you did, assume you didn’t make it prominent enough)

27 Department of Defense Funding

28 DoD Service Funders 4 The Services each have their own 6.1 funding organizations –Air Force: AFOSR –Navy: ONR –Army: ARO 4 Each organization has an “Open BAA” –don’t get overly excited when the new BAA comes out 4 These offices administer special programs for the OSR(OFC DOD DDRE) –These are like NSF special program RFPs generally for large funding, big groups (MURI) Sometimes specialized for govt priorities (Depscor, HBCU)

29 DoD Labs 4 DoD labs can administer/award 6.2 and 6.3 funding contracts –AF: AFRL (Wright, Phillips, Rome, others) Rome Laboratories (AFRL/I), Rome NY for IT and especially AI –Navy: NRL Naval Center for Applied Research in AI –Army: ARL Adelphi Maryland: Agents, language, robots 4 But,...

30 DoD Lab BAAs 4 Getting funding from the labs (without Darpa in the loop) is pretty rare –BAAs usually call for White Papers –Geographic Proximity often a must –Personal contacts and joint work often prerequisite 4 The labs put out calls for White Papers –Watch for these! –These are a good opportunity to get lab people to know your work - can lead to funding in the longer term

31 Know your Program Manager 4 The people making the funding decisions are trying to make sure they support high quality work –The quality of the scientists is important Track Record –Knowledge of your past work by PM is often important The PMs are typically scientists They enjoy meeting and talking to you –(with certain caveats)

32 Know Your Program Manager 4 You should try to get to know your PM –Useful for NSF, very important for services and DARPA Note:PMs often come to conferences –attend talks –ask people about their work -- knowing who is who can be useful!

33 Visiting (or calling) a PM 4 Use the analogy of visitors to your labs –You treat an interested student different from a know-it- all kid 4 Do your homework before your meetings –Think about what you want to ask –These are busy people, but they’ll give you time if you’re not wasting it like you would a perspective student 4 Be prepared to listen –learn what the PM needs and is looking for

34 The White Paper 4 A good outcome is if the PM asks for a white paper –A SHORT description of your research 4 This is a great opportunity if you do it right –Think of it as an “advertisement” for your work Why is what you are doing IMPORTANT What are you doing differently than others –Use 3-4 pages Technical arguments must be focused Technical arguments must be precise

35 Service/Lab Open BAAs 4 Rarely, if ever, is an unsolicted grant submitted under an open BAA funded –Don’t just send grant All grants received MUST be treated correctly –lots of paperwork, headaches for PM and reviewers, especially when there is no money in the budget Better:visit or call, white paper, invite for grant –You can iterate the grant ideas with the PM don’t submit a final grant until it is ready Be responsive (especially about budget) 4 Money is usually very limited –being told there is no funding available is the expected value!

36 DARPA (Defense) Advanced Research Projects Agency

37 The Key to Understanding DARPA 4 DARPA is a results-oriented funding agency –They do like science and want/need to support it, but that is not the primary mission –The primary mission is to bring science to a military customer –That science must be “revolutionary” by MILITARY standards –innovative science coupled with innovative doctrine or new technology

38 Common Misunderstanding 4 “Some people seem to get a lot of Darpa funding, all those grants must be wired” –DARPA is torn between two needs –Support the best scientists –GET RESULTS Going with a proven performer lowers the risk –Already a well-known scientist –track record of getting results –The DARPA review process is closed, so there is no feedback if you are not funded helps perpetuate this misunderstanding

39 DARPA Reviewing 4 A panel of reviewers, usually all from DoD entities and/or national laboratories, rates all grants and ranks them with respect to fixed criteria –All proposals are ranked into two categories Selectable Not selectable 4 The BAA specifies the criteria of review –The PM chooses weighting factors within criteria 4 The PM funds some, but not all, of the selectables as his/her funding allows and based on program needs

40 Example Review Criteria/ranking 1. Overall scientific and technical merit of the proposed program (30%) 2. Applicability of proposed technologies to (30 %) 3. Expertise and experience in and ability to complete the proposed work successfully (25%) 4. The degree to which technical data and/or computer software developed under the proposed contract are to be delivered to DARPA with unrestricted rights (15%) 5. Proposed cost, cost realism, and availability of funds. Applicable only in case of significant cost estimate error (0%) –Legally budget not included in selectable/not selectable ranking!

41 DARPA desires new ideas! 4 Darpa wants to bring in young scientists and new ideas –e.g.: Darpa sponsored a workshop at AAAI ‘97 for young AI scientists to present their ideas to a number of PMS (many of these folks were funded under 1998 BAAs) 4 BUT… DARPA is a results-centered organization –most young scientists haven’t learned to portray their ideas appropriately

42 A Funded NSF Proposal 4 NSF grant on planning (Nau/Hendler): –Developing control strategies which use knowledge about goal interactions to guide planning by making better selections among alternatives –Exploring how limitations on goal interactions lead to characteristics of task networks which constrain the size and structure of the search space, thus enabling hierarchical planning to be done more efficiently –doing a theoretical analysis of several competing planning strategies in terms of how knowledge about limited interactions can improve their search efficiency –implementing the results of the above research in a planning system for the efficient solution of problems of practical interest

43 A Funded DARPA Proposal 4 DARPA grant on planning (Nau/Hendler): –Make realistic manufacturing example problems and knowledge bases available to members of the in a manner usable by the technologies being developed under current support –Develop an ontology of machining information in the standard ontology package being developed by researchers –Evaluate work on realistic manufacturing problems…and provide comparisons with current tools used in manufacturing and manufacturing research –Provide case-bases of manufacturing plans accessible to participants … –Make -based manufacturing results and tools available to the manufacturing community via the NIST tesbed

44 See the difference? 4 For NSF we stressed the scientific goals –we later backed them up with details from the application of the technology to show that the theory was viable 4 For DARPA we stressed the application of the technology – we later backed it up with scientific details to prove we had scientific credibility and knowledge

45 Specific DARPA hints 4 Work with people who already know the DARPA world –DARPA generally funds multi-PI projects and/or “consortia” of contract/subcontract groups Form strategic alliances with better known researchers Team with corporate research groups that have DARPA experience

46 Specific DARPA Hints 4 BEFORE a BAA is written, the DARPA PMs often sponsor a workshop on the topic to help them put together a credible scientific program –Invite only, usually only to senior researchers great if you can get an invite –Notes from these workshops are made available on the Web and elsewhere PMs and participants will steer you towards them –After a BAA comes out, search for those notes! Can provide valuable hints as to what aspects of the technology are seen as most important

47 DARPA Note 4 Once a BAA is announced, the PM is legally constrained NOT to provide information to potential bidders UNLESS the discussion is shared with all potential bidders –A web site usually is created with an address for sending questions and a FAQ of those that are legally answerable –The site may also include pointers to lists of potential bidders who have expressed interest in partners Don’t hesitate to contact them

48 Grant Tips from the “Pros”

49 TIPS From the “Pros” I asked a number of program managers, senior scientists, well- funded researchers, and participants in funding review panels to join me in providing tips based on our experiences

50 The Number 1 Tip 4 Respond to the BAA/RFP –Provide EVERYTHING that is requested –Make sure your description matches the program needs! 4 This may sound simple, but virtually all of us have encountered proposals that were about good research, but not responsive to the BAA or which omitted key points! –They were not funded

51 Good Grants 4 A good grant “tells a story” –What is the problem to be solved? –Why is wrong with current approaches? –Why is your new idea? –What is your technical approach to this idea? –Why are you (your team) the one(s) to do it? –How are you going to show that it works?

52 More general grant tips 4 Back up what you propose to do with what you’ve already done –A funded proposal must describe work that doesn’t yet exist, but at the same time, the reviewer must be convinced you can do it. 4 Show enthusiasm for your work –if you don’t love it, neither will the reviewers

53 Know your audience 4 It is critical to consider who will be reviewing your grant –NSF: (Academic) scientists in AI &/or CS –ONR,OSR,ARO: military lab scientists –DARPA: military scientists, operational military 4 Rule of Thumb: Someone on the panel must think yours is THE BEST

54 Readability is important 4 A typical reviewer (on a panel) is reading a lot of similar grants in a short amount of time –Make his/her life easier! Highlight key points Repeat things you want them to be sure of –tell em what you’re going to say, say it, tell em what you said Use figures/graphs where they can help make an obscure point understandable –space is limited, but this is worth it!

55 Budgets 4 A smaller grant is ALWAYS easier to get than larger –example: There is a myth that DARPA budgets should be large -- this is false (and a bad strategy) remember selectable  funded! 4 Don’t ask for more than you can realistically spend –A key new issue: expenditure rates! Years don’t have to be equal –example: if you can’t hire all students immediately, ask for less year one

56 One last tip…BE VISIBLE 4 Too many young scientists avoid “time wasting” things like program committees, ed boards, workshop/symposium organization, outside talks, etc. Save some of your time for these! –name recognition is important –a reputation as someone who “gets things done” looks great on a review form

57 SUMMARY 4 There is no magic to writing a good grant, it is a skill that can learned –Learn from mentors –Learn from your mistakes –Learn from good examples 4 The PMs are crucial –Get to know them –Get them to know you

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