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How to Obtain Funding

Module by: Susan Cates. E-mail the author

Summary: 2006 presentation in the Rice University NSF Advance Conference entitled “Negotiating the Ideal Faculty Position”. This workshop was on obtaining grants, and was authored by Semahat Demir (NSF), Lydia Kavraki (Rice-CS, Rob Raphael (Rice-BIOE)and Joan Strassmann (Rice-EEB).

Workshop Authors: Semahat Demir, Lydia Kavraki, Rob Raphael and Joan Strassmann

Introduction

Lydia Kavraki, Ph.D.

Noah Harding Professor of Computer Science

Rice University

Slide 1: Funding is Important

  • You need to be prepared to address the issue in the long run
  • You need more than a great idea
  • You need to understand the logistics

Slide 2: Funding - Logistics

  • Identify a funding agency and learn everything you can about this agency (the web and your colleagues are good sources)
  • Understand what is the mechanism for submitting a proposal from your institution (“Office of Sponsored Research”)
  • Develop a time frame for writing and proofreading the proposal

Slide 3: Funding Opportunities

Slide modified from Kinney, Neptune and Wilson

Slide 4: Your University

  • A proposal needs a budget and appropriate signatures
  • Lead time is typically required
  • Your colleagues can help you understand all that

Slide 5: Time Frame

  • Allow time for many drafts
  • Allow time for feedback
  • Allow extra time

Slide 6: Funding is Important

  • You need to be prepared to address the issue in the long run
    • How will you prepare yourself for the next grant?
  • You need more than a great idea
    • You need to be able to communicate and support your idea
  • You need to understand the logistics

Slide 7: Do not Let Funding Consume You

  • Your “growth” as a researcher is essential
  • Publish, collaborate, discuss your ideas, read, be brave and be prepared to fail

Slide 8: NSF, Funding Opportunities and Successful Proposal Writing

Semahat Demir, Ph.D.

Program Director

Biomedical Engineering Program

National Science Foundation

Slide 9: Outline

  • Overview of NSF
  • Different NSF Funding Opportunities
  • NSF’s Priority Areas (NSF-Wide Investment Areas)
  • NSF Merit Review Criteria
  • Tips for Successful Proposal Writing

Slide 10: NSF Vision

  • NSF: Where Discovery Begins
    • Enabling the Nation’s future through discovery, learning and innovation.

Slide 11: NSF Overview

  • Founded in 1950
  • An independent federal agency
  • Responsible for advancing science and engineering
  • Makes merit-based grants and cooperative agreements
    • Individual researchers and groups
    • Colleges, universities
    • Other institutions: public, private, state, local and federal
  • Does not operate laboratories
  • Peer-review and evaluation of 42,000 proposals (FY05) submitted by science and engineering research and education communities
    • 9,800 new awards (success rates are different for different programs)
    • 246,000 proposal reviews done

Slide 12: NSF Support

Table 1: NSF Support as a Percent of Total US Federal Support for Academic Basic Research in Selected Fields
Physical Sciences: 40%
Engineering: 46%
Social Sciences: 52%
Environmental Sciences: 54%
Biology (excluding NIH): 66%
Mathematical Sciences: 77%
Computer Sciences: 86%

Slide 13: Funding Opportunities at NSF

  • Individual Programs
    • Research, education, center programs
  • Priority Areas (Investment Areas for FY)
    • Cross-Programs and Cross-Directorates
  • Cross Disciplinary Areas
    • Cross-Programs and Cross-Directorates
  • Interagency Programs
    • NSF, and other government agencies

Slide 14: Award (Grant) Types

  • Individual Investigator Initiated Awards
  • CAREER Awards
  • Center Awards
  • SBIR/STTR awards
  • SGER awards
  • Supplements
  • Workshops, conferences

Slide 15: NSF Disciplines and Structure

  1. Biological Sciences (BIO)
  2. Computer and Information Sciences and Engineering (CISE)
  3. Education and Human Resources (EHR)
  4. Engineering (ENG)
    • Biomedical Engineering Program
  5. Geosciences (GEO)
  6. Mathematical and Physical Sciences (MPS)
  7. Social, Behavioral And Economic Sciences (SBE)
  8. Polar Programs
  9. Office of Cyberinfrastructure
  10. Office of International Science and Engineering
  11. Office of Integrative Affairs

Slide 16: NSF-Wide Investment Areas (FY 06)

  • Nanoscale Science and Engineering
  • Biocomplexity in Environment
  • Human and Social Dynamics
  • Mathematical Sciences
  • Cyberinfrastructure

Slide 17: NSF-Wide Investment Areas (Request for FY 07)

  • Biocomplexity in Environment
  • Climate Change Science Program
  • Cyberinfrastructure
  • Human and Social Dynamics
  • International Polar Year
  • Mathematical Sciences
  • National Nanotechnology Initiative
  • Networking Information Technology R and D

Slide 18: NSF Merit Review Criteria

  • Criteria include:
    • What is the intellectual merit and quality of the proposed activity?
    • What are the broader impacts of the proposed activity?

Slide 19: What is the intellectual merit of the proposed activity?

  • Potential Considerations:
    • How important is the proposed activity to advancing knowledge and understanding within its own field or across different fields?
    • How well qualified is the proposer (individual or team) to conduct the project? (If appropriate, the reviewer will comment on the quality of prior work.)
    • To what extent does the proposed activity suggest and explore creative and original concepts?
    • How well conceived and organized is the proposed activity?
    • Is there sufficient access to resources?

Slide 20: What are the broader impacts of the proposed activity?

  • Potential Considerations:
    • How well does the activity advance discovery and understanding while promoting teaching, training and learning?
    • How well does the activity broaden the participation of underrepresented groups (e.g., gender, ethnicity, disability, geographic, etc.)?
    • To what extent will it enhance the infrastructure for research and education, such as facilities, instrumentation, networks and partnerships?
    • Will the results be disseminated broadly to enhance scientific and technological understanding?
    • What may be the benefits of the proposed activity to society?

Slide 21: Tips for Successful Proposal Writing

  • Determine if your project is relevant to the program
    • Get in touch with the Program Director
    • Program Director:
      • Review Panels
      • Award/decline recommendation
      • Post management of the awards (progress report)
  • Follow the instructions posted by the agency
    • Format, sections, project plan
    • Agency’s Review Criteria (NSF Merit Review Criteria)
    • Priority Areas for the agency
  • Respond to a solicitation
    • Deadlines (pre-proposal, letter of intent, full proposal)
    • Additional review criteria and requirements
  • Read “successful” proposals of your colleagues
  • Have your proposal reviewed by collaborators or colleagues before submitting
  • Do not submit on the day of the deadline
  • Volunteer to serve on a review panel

Slide 22: How to Obtain Funding: An Assistant Professor’s Guide

Robert M. Raphael, Ph.D.

TN Law Assistant Professor

Dept. of Bioengineering

Rice University

Slide 23: Spirit of the Fighting Irish

Figure 1: “To everyone who has ever faced adversity, whether in business, professional or personal life. I admire the person who says: Every day someone does something great. Today that person will be me.” -- Lou Holtz
Lou Holtz
Lou Holtz (LouHoltz.jpg)

Slide 24: Writing Great Grants: A Three Step Recipe

  1. Choose a significant problem
    • Bonus points if not much work has been done on the problem
    • More bonus points if you have done the important work
  2. Leave no question that you can accomplish your aims
    • Established track record of publications
    • Clear and convincing preliminary data
  3. Write a clear, easy to read proposal
    • “Calm down, understand the situation and communicate clearly” – We Were Soldiers

Slide 25: Big Hurdles and Pitfalls

  • Navigating the Scylla of building on your accomplishments and the Charybdis of creating new research problems and attacking new research areas, given your situation:
    • Laboratory techniques not yet working
    • Students not yet trained/busy with classes
    • Teaching and other responsibilities
  • Proposing to do too much
  • Not making clear the points and connections that are obvious to you

Slide 26: Final Do’s and Dont’s

  • Do not necessarily assume the person who reviews your grant will be an expert in your area or know why your research is novel
  • The response to a revised NIH grant is very important
    • Never appear to be angry or emotional. Just stick to the science. If a reviewer got something wrong (which often happens), just lay out the facts.
    • This is hard because you have put so much effort into the grant it’s easy to take comments personally.
    • Criticisms are of the science, not of you!
  • Get grants done in advance and have colleagues read them !
    • Resist the thrill of pulling it off on “third and long”

Slide 27: And Remember:

Figure 2
(a) (b)
 (YouCanDoIt.jpg) (GreatWomen.jpg)

Slide 28: Acknowledgements

Figure 3: Raphael Lab: Emily, Yong, Ryan, Jeff, Imran, Jenni, Louise (and Robert Raphael, center)
“My mariners, Souls that have toil'd, and wrought, and thought with me”
“My mariners, Souls that have toil'd, and wrought, and thought with me”  
   (raphael_lab.jpg)
  • Thanks for Believing in Us!
    • NSF CAREER
    • Whitaker Foundation
    • Texas Advanced Technology Program
    • National Organization for Hearing Research
    • NIH NRSA (Greeson, Organ)
    • NSF-IGERT
    • Keck Center for Computational and Structural Biology
    • DOE Computational Science Graduate Fellowship

Slide 29: So you want someone else to pay for your research?

Joan E. Strassmann, Ph.D.

Department Chair

Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

Rice University

  • So you want someone else to pay for your research?
    1. Ask important, big questions.
    2. Have several projects at once.
    3. Write clear, well-researched proposals.
    4. Collaborate.
    5. Identify all possible funding sources and learn their cultures.
    6. Don’t let funding consume you. Keep publishing!

Slide 30: Number 1 - Ask important, big questions.

  • Do not redo your Ph.D. or postdoc work.
  • Find a substantially new project if your proposal is rejected twice.
  • Read deeply and broadly (at least 5 articles a day).
  • Be creative.
  • Do not be afraid to do something really different.
  • Talk to lots of people about research.

Slide 31: Number 2 - Do several projects at once.

  • Keeps you excited.
  • When one project faces problems, another could be blooming.
  • Increases funding opportunities.
  • Synergy in thinking about different things can suggest novel pathways.
  • Increases your visibility.

Slide 32: Number 3 - Write clear, well-researched proposals.

  • The proposal must be impeccable, no typos, clear headers, clear flow from hypotheses to methods.
  • Follow the format of the agency exactly.
  • Include preliminary data and figures.
  • Get sample funded proposals by asking people for them, preferably those not too close to your research.
  • Have several people read your proposal.
  • Leave enough time, at least 3 months.

Slide 33: Number 4 - Collaborate.

  • New ideas often come from collaboration.
  • Techniques and approaches can be shared.
  • This is the ONLY way to succeed without turning into a workaholic.
  • Teamwork is fun!
  • Find collaborators from a broader pool than is initially comfortable, and bridge the gaps with frequent meetings.
  • Same-stage collaborators are often best.

Slide 34: Number 5 - Identify all possible funding sources and learn their cultures.

  • NSF and NIH are not the only sources of funding.
  • Learn about those grants requiring nominations, and get them.
  • Take advantage of your sponsored research office in learning about private funding.

Slide 35: Number 6 - Keep publishing.

  • The search for funding can be discouraging.
  • Keep trying, but don’t forget to keep publishing anyway.
  • Write up your research quickly.
  • Write a minireview, review, perspective etc. at least every 2 years.

Slide 36: Conclusion

Have fun! It’s a great life!

References

  1. Demir, S., Kavraki, L., Raphael, R., and Strassman, J. (2006, October). How to Obtain Funding: NSF Advance Workshop at Rice University. [http://www.advance.rice.edu/negotiatingtheidealfacultyposition/agenda.html].
  2. Kinney, K., Wilson, P. and Neptune, R. (2004, October). EFWO Negotiating the Ideal Faculty Position Workshop Agenda: How to Find Funding. [http://www.engr.utexas.edu/efwo/workshop2004.cfm].
  3. Thackrey, D. University of Michigan's Proposal Writer's Guide. [http://www.research.umich.edu/proposals/pwg/pwgcomplete.html].

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