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Strengths of Funded & Weaknesses of Unfunded MRI Proposals Helen Hansma Joan Frye, Sally O’Connor, Angela Klaus, Mark Farmer, and others.

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Presentation on theme: "Strengths of Funded & Weaknesses of Unfunded MRI Proposals Helen Hansma Joan Frye, Sally O’Connor, Angela Klaus, Mark Farmer, and others."— Presentation transcript:

1 Strengths of Funded & Weaknesses of Unfunded MRI Proposals Helen Hansma Joan Frye, Sally O’Connor, Angela Klaus, Mark Farmer, and others NSF

2 Call Your Program Director Ask Us Early, Ask Us Often!!

3 Strong Proposals have: healthy and vigorous research student-faculty research collaborations externally funded research published in peer-reviewed research journals no doubt that the requested instrument will be –well cared for and –put to good use for –research and research training

4 Weak Proposals raise Lots of Questions: Is the requested instrument is actually needed for the proposed research?? Will the instrument be involved in outreach and teaching?? How have each of the PIs used this instrument in the past?? What about the –low funding level of current faculty researchers, –lack of undergraduate and graduate student researchers, –lack of publications ??

5 Strong Proposals have: Several users with a clear need for the instrument Preliminary data Research descriptions start with need for instrument Integration of research and education

6 In Strong Proposals: PIs have a past history of outreach activities Broader Impacts - strong Possible problems - anticipated & addressed Many women and underrepresented minority students

7 Weak Proposals: “If we get the instrument, users will come” = a recipe for failure Users describe their research and say at the end, “And if we had [the new instrument], we could do [something more].”

8 Weaknesses.... Weak science: –Research proposals not well developed –Research is of relatively low-impact Not clear that the instrument was well justified. Typographical errors = careless preparation?? Few / poor references

9 Strong Proposals “Walks on water” Each investigator includes a training component in his / her research description “I always wondered what it felt like to get an NSF award!” -a new awardee, upon receiving her award phone call

10 Weak Proposals Vague generalizations Figures & images are poor or lacking Double spaced text The reviewers say: “It’s a sad little proposal.” “It’s like reading a proposal by Charlie Brown’s teacher – it’s just noise” “Instrumentation without a Cause”

11 A Weak Figure: As this image shows, our current microscope needs to be replaced. Image is too dark! 

12 A Strong Figure: Figure 1. Images with our current Costco microscope [left] and with the Zeus Alive! Microscope that we propose to buy [right]. Image is lighter here 

13 Proposals MUST have: 1.Intellectual Merit AND Broader Impacts in the Project Summary 2.15 pages or fewer of Project Description 3.Large enough font sizes and margins 4.Research - NOT medical

14 Proposal Title should be: “Acquisition of _______ “

15 Weaknesses: Budget Instrument has too many / too few features for proposed research Instruments not related Too many instruments requested “We figured we’d ask for TWO of the same instrument, and they’d give us ONE.” -an unsuccessful PI “A Ferrari isn’t good in traffic.” -a reviewer

16 A Solid Management Plan describes: Maintenance plans for the instrument(s) How costs of instrument use and maintenance will be covered (user fees or ??) The available expertise in use of the equipment How new users will be trained How user time will be allocated (if necessary)

17 Pitfalls to Watch out for... Follow guidelines carefully! Request the appropriate instruments (e.g. Is high throughput really needed? How does the instrument relate to the research?) Emphasize research – not only teaching ! Do not request a “laundry list” of items

18 Strategies for Success Student involvement: co-authors on papers & presentations. Strong maintenance of existing equipment and plans for requested equipment Involvement of under-represented groups

19 Strategies.... Wide use of instrument Demonstrated need, e.g., # samples Preliminary results/measurements

20 Resubmissions Most proposals are NOT funded!

21 Weak Resubmissions Whining or angry responses to reviewers’ comments Project description starts with responses to reviewers’ comments Proposal has few changes

22 Strong Resubmissions: Good responses to reviewers’ comments – can be incorporated into the revised proposal without mentioning the reviewers’ comments Significant improvements in the proposal

23 Evaluating Proposals

24 Evaluating Proposals: NSF Merit Review Criteria 1.Intellectual Merit 2.Broader Impacts of the Proposed Effort

25 MRI-Specific Criteria: Instrument Acquisition shared use of the instruments for research and/or research training availability of technical expertise management & maintenance plan effective instrument use

26 Summary of Review Criteria Merit Review Criteria:  Intellectual merit  Broader impacts Integration of research and education Integrating diversity into the proposed activities Additional MRI Review Criteria:  for instrument acquisition - the management plan;  for instrument development - the rationale for development of a new instrument.

27 Proposal Preparation

28 Your “Holy Books”: 1.The MRI Program Announcement: NSF The Grant Proposal Guide – GPG: NSF jsp?ods_key=gpg

29 To Do: NSF Fastlane – start using it Early! Other Senior Personnel – give them an early deadline for finishing their parts of the proposal.

30 Summary Start early – give yourself enough time Read the MRI PA and the GPG, and follow their rules Get feedback on your proposal from your colleagues Proposals should be clear, appropriate, and justified Anticipate some frustration Study reviews carefully If declined - Call your Program Director after reading your reviews (take some time to think about them) If awarded - follow up on reporting and find out about supplemental funding (stay in touch with PD)


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