Winning win themes

Academia has only recently caught up to private industry proposal development practices. For example, more and more color team reviews are being applied to large-scale and/or more complex proposals and there is emerging interest in capture management as professional designation.

One industry concept that is tough to explain and promote is the concept of “win themes”. Too often, we think that win themes are simply what our university has on tap, readily available for use in our proposed program….

We have thousands of students.

But without connecting what we have with how we are uniquely using or applying the resource, it doesn’t differentiate us from the crowd…..

ASU is ranked xx in online course delivery, enabled through the development of specialized learning environments for thousands of students enrolled in online courses.

And, without connecting that with a perceived or real sponsor need, we cannot hope to satisfy the sponsor requirements….

ASU will improve student experience and subject matter mastery for XXXX participants by designing, testing, and evaluating specialized, adaptive learning environments using proprietary online course software, which currently serves over XX00 students annually in a nationally recognized program.*

I recently read an amazing article: “How to create winning proposal themes” that should be required reading for anyone interested in exploring the use of win themes. As with all challenging concepts, practice makes perfect! From my experience, a concerted win theme development period at the beginning of a proposal is priceless for identifying and agreeing to overall proposal strategy.

* These are examples only and have not been vetted, nor approved for use.

Science of Team Science Conference

5th Annual International Science of Team Science Conference – Call for Abstracts

The Fifth Annual International Science of Team Science (SciTS) Conference (this year co-located with Annual VIVO Conference) will be held August 6-8, 2014 at the Hyatt Regency on the shores of Lady Bird Lake situated in the heart of downtown Austin, Texas.

The SciTS Conference ( is an international, multi-agency forum dedicated to the science of team science, bringing together thought leaders from a broad range of disciplines, fields, and professions, including: translational research, evaluation, communication, social and behavioral sciences, complex systems, technology, and management. The SciTS Conference serves as a point of convergence for team science practitioners and investigators studying teams, engages funding agency program staff to guide and manage team science initiatives, and affords data providers and analytics developers insight into team tracking and analysis needs.

Click here for more information.

NSF Proposal Clinic – Preparations

We are busily confirming our plans for ASU’s National Science Foundation (NSF) Proposal Clinic to be held on ASU’s Main Campus at ISTB 4 on January 9, 2014.

The event targets associate and full professors seeking to improve their NSF award portfolio. Highlights of the day include, a presenter with extensive experience in single investigator and center proposal preparation, a panel discussion featuring experienced faculty members, and a networking lunch. NSF_ProposalClinicFlyerDownload the flyer: NSF-ProposalClinic.

Register here by January 6, 2014.

Questions? Email

fs3: What you see is what you get

OKED’s Funding Success Skills Series (FS3)  exposes faculty and other professionals to best practices, improves awareness of opportunity development resources, and cultivates an extended community interested in expanding skill sets to compete successfully for more complex, larger value opportunities available from the federal government.

The second forum of the fall 2013 series, titled “What you see is what you get: Effective messaging in proposals,” focused on creating eye-catching graphics and presenting text in engaging ways that resonate with the sponsor, clearly conveys highly technical content, and works within sponsor requirements to drive the reader’s attention to key themes. This includes interpreting the sponsor’s needs and requirements for formatting and organization, while taking advantage of useful techniques for enhancing a message.

The four panelists for this panel discussion had exceptional expertise and experience in a wide variety of topics in this vein. Click here for the video.

Matthew Scotch,an Assistant Professor of Biomedical Informatics, opened the conversation with his top three recommendations for preparing proposal.

Ara Barsam, the Senior Director of Grants and Associate Research Professor in the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College, was able to relate his experience working for a funding agency to his current work submitting proposals.

Liz Bernreuter, Director of Development at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism, discussed moving a research heavy narrative into a philanthropic document, sharing multiple examples with the audience.

Patrick Cheung, Director Creative Services, provided a “crib sheet” of design DO’s and DON’Ts for the audience. It was a big hit.

The next fs3 will be on January 30, 2014: Some (sum) of its parts: Creating a persuasive and unique proposal narrative. Register now, space is limited.

fs3 is a set of monthly lunchtime discussions on topics that address the full spectrum of activities necessary for preparing successful proposals. The series aims to contribute substantially to creating a culture that results in winning faculty proposals. For more information, contact: researchstrategy (@)

What topic of discussion would help you to improve your application or proposal?