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1 CHE 594 Lecture 5 Finding and Idea II. 2 Research Planning Starts With The Heilmeier Criteria What is the problem, why is it hard? How is it solved.

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Presentation on theme: "1 CHE 594 Lecture 5 Finding and Idea II. 2 Research Planning Starts With The Heilmeier Criteria What is the problem, why is it hard? How is it solved."— Presentation transcript:

1 1 CHE 594 Lecture 5 Finding and Idea II

2 2 Research Planning Starts With The Heilmeier Criteria What is the problem, why is it hard? How is it solved today? What is the new technical idea; why can we succeed now? What is the impact if successful? How will the program be organized? How will intermediate results be generated? How will you measure progress? What will it cost Why should they fund you rather than someone else? Adapted From Gio Wiederhold, Stanford

3 3 Key Steps in Research Planning 1.Identify an interesting problem 2.Do a literature search to answer the following questions How is it solved today – what is known? What are the holes in the literature Why havent those holes been filled? It is insufficiently important (poor proposal topic) No one has gotten to it (OK proposal topic) New technology enables solution (Great proposal topic) You have a unique solution (Great if convincing) 3.Narrow the question down to an achievable goal Usually involves formulating smaller questions or testable hypotheses 4.Find a way to answer the questions 5.Identify intermediate answers (papers) 6.Develop a method to measure progress 7.Find a risk mitigation strategy

4 4 The Hourglass Picture Of Research Adapted From William M.K. Trochim Cornell Start with an important big question Focus to solvable question Observe Analyze data Reach conclusions Generalize back to big problem

5 5 Example A Problem That Professor Masel Is Thinking About Now Big Question: Biofuels (Cellulosic ethanol) presently too expensive. Can we reduce the cost? Solvable question: Can tethered sulfuric acid (polyelectrolyte brush) be used in place of sulfuric acid to reduce cost? Measure kinetics of polyelectrolyte catalyzed cellulose conversion as a function of polyelectrolyte structure Analyze data Conclusions: kinetics, structural functional relationships Generalize: Economic analysis to determine whether these catalysts reduce the cost of cellulosic ethanol Wyman Paper: Pretreatment has largest potential for cost reduction

6 6 Finding The Solvable Question Key Adapted From William M.K. Trochim Cornell Start with an important big question Focus to solvable question Observe Analyze data Reach conclusions Generalize back to big problem Need to convince reviewers it is solvable Limits problems to ones the reviewers think they can solve

7 7 Characteristics Of A Good Solvable Question Clear relation to the big problem Clear reason why to do the work Why hasnt the work be done before? Insufficiently important (Poor proposal topic) No one has gotten to it (OK proposal topic) New technology enables solution (Great proposal topic) You have a unique skills (Great if convincing) You have the skillset to solve Key results in 1-2 years (for 3 year project) Many publishable intermediate results Lead to follow-on studies Fun to do

8 8 Typical Good Solvable Problems Critical test of an important hypothesis Better understanding of the critical variables that underlie an important problem Application of new technology to create new insights to an important problem New solutions to an important problem enabled by new materials new equipment or new insights from other fields Most good proposals apply a new technique to an old problem, or an old technique to a new problem

9 9 Good Science and Good Proposals Not The Same Good science uses inductive and deductive reasoning Deductive Inductive NIH encourages hypothesis based (deductive) proposals Adapted From William M.K. Trochim Cornell

10 10 Method To Tell if Problem is Solvable Outline 1-2 papers/yr that you would like to write on a given topic. What is the proposal supposed to measure or calculate? What techniques will you use? How long will it take YOU to set up the experiment and take the data? (students will take twice as long) Assume you are successful (4 papers published in 2 years) If everything works will you have an answer to the question you raised? If parts of the experiment do not work, can you still write papers on the results?

11 11 A Task Table Is Very Useful For Proposal Planning Technical Objective Sub issueVariables studied, techniques used Key challenges & plans to overcome them Description of objective 1 Paper 1 title Paper 2 title Paper 3 title Description of objective 2 Paper 4 title Paper 5 title Paper 6 title

12 12 A Task Table For a MURI project Table 1 Task Summary, Roadmap Current Status IssuesProposed Approaches Microburners as heat sources Masel and Shannon already demonstrated that flames can propagate in micron spaces Need equations for flame stability as a function of geometry, wall composition, wall temperature, fuel, oxidizer, stoichiometric ratio Measure combustion limits in micron to millimeter scale burners Develop model of combustion process Analyze results to produce design correlations, scaling rules Need equations for heat output as a function of geometry, wall composition, wall temperature, fuel, oxidizer, stoichiometric ratio Measure conversion, heat output in micron scale burners Use model to calculate conversion, heat output Analyze results to produce design correlations, scaling rules Key properties that determine flame stability have not yet been measured for many candidate wall materials Measure key wall properties: accommodation coefficients, radical reflectivities of key species Program managers love this; NSF reviewers hate it, NIH OK $1,000,000/yr for 5 yr effort

13 13 Most Common Mistakes Writing too ambitious a proposal Proposing too much, too many problems, … Unfocused technical objectives Talking about the large problem instead of a narrower idea that you can really do Not starting early enough

14 14 Proposal Calls As Sources Of Research Ideas The government publishes many research ideas Broad agency announcements Small business innovation research (SBIR) These are good sources of ideas even if you are not eligible You can find a list of SBIR programs at I posted a number of these calls at posal_ideas/

15 Lists Of Funding Opportunities NSF: https://service.govdelivery.com/service/multi _subscribe.html?code=USNSF&custom_id=823 NIH Guide LISTSERV m Dept. of Education ndex.html Federal Grants 15

16 Be Sure To Get In Touch With The Program Officer Before You Submit The Proposal Discuss your ideas Ask questions about format Find out the evaluation criteria, methods

17 17 Summary: You Need To Evaluate Proposed Ideas Before You Write The Proposal Is it good for your career? Fit your personality, skillset Fun to do The right place on the knowledge curve Is it fundable? Satisfy Heilmeier criterion Can you make a case for funding?

18 List Of Why Proposals Are Turned Down Class I: Problem (58 percent} The problem is of insufficient importance or is unlikely to produce any new or useful information. The proposed research is based on a hypothesis that rests on insufficient evidence, is doubtful, or is unsound. The problem is more complex than the investigator appears to realize. The problem has only local significance, or is one of production or control, or otherwise fails to fall sufficiently clearly within the general field of the agency. The problem is scientifically premature and warrants, at most, only a pilot study. The research as proposed is overly involved, with too many elements under simultaneous investigation. The description of the nature of the research and of its significance leaves the proposal nebulous and diffuse and without clear research aim. Source: Ernest M. Allen Why Are Research Grant Applications Disapproved? science 132,

19 19 Questions?


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