Monthly Archives: January 2013

Paylines and success rates

The Office of Extramural Research at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) provides policies and guidelines for extramural research administrations within NIH and in partnership with the biomedical research community. This office provides policy and guidance to the 24 NIH institutes and centers that award grants and guides investigators through the process of obtaining grants and navigating any federal policies and procedures related to these grants.

Sally Rockey is the Deputy Director for Extramural Research at the NIH and directs the Office of Extramural Research. She recently featured the FY12 success rates for NIH in a blog post. She was pleased to note that despite a “flat budget and complex fiscal times” success rates remained steady (18%). There were several comments on that post that necessitated a reposting of a blog entry that describes paylines, percentiles, and success rates. While complex, it is erudite and extremely helpful in understanding these topics.

Understanding a sponsor’s guidelines, mission, goals, and funding trends are essential. This information influences where, when, and how you submit your proposal.

Follow Sally Rockey on Twitter @RockTalking and on her blog.

**Portions of this blog post were adapted from: Farmer, Faye. “Conversations with Sally Rockey,” Association for Women in Science (AWIS) Magazine. 42:3, 20-21 (2011).

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Former Defense Secretary Gates Stresses Importance of Basic Research Funding

Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates had much to say about potential federal budget cuts that could gut funding to basic research programs while speaking at the Washington Clean Technology Alliance conference on January 29, 2013. “I think it’s fair to say America’s economic pre-eminence—and I would argue our national security, and national influence as well—is largely a consequence of near-continual investment, education, and research, mostly in the fields of science and technology over the past 60 years,” Gates said.

You can read more of his comments in the article on the Xconomy website.

Budgeting with Uncertainty

With an uncertain federal budget, sequestration looming on the horizon, and an end to the Continuing Appropriations Resolution, recipients of federal funds have a difficult task of determining scope of work and bugetary allocations for the coming year. The American Institute of Physics : The AIP Bulletin of Science Policy News #6 broadcast Department of Defense internal communications focused on internal policy preparation given the uncertain financial circumstances regarding federal funds. The Office of Budget and Management provided some response for agency leadership on how to reamin flexible and prepared, available from the American Institute of Physics: The AIP Bulletin of Science Policy News #7.

Read more at American Institute of Physics: FYI #7: The AIP Bulletin of Science Policy News – OMB Issues Memo on FY 2013 Budget Uncertainty and FYI #6: ” A Perfect Storm of Budget Uncertainty”: DOD Responds to Budget Impasse.

Search for Substitutes

Growing scarcity and the cost of accessing domestic natural materials instigated the creation of the new Energy Innovation Hub – the Critical Materials Institutes (CMI). CMI was initiated by the Department of Energy and is comprised of public-private partnerships, including collaborations with academic partnerships. CMI is focused on discovering substitutes for rare earth materials.

Read more at the Office of Science and Technology Policy.

Boilerplate versus plagiarism

I am always curious when someone asks me for an example of a “winning” proposal, or a great facilities section, or a letter of support. Of course I have examples. I have a trove of examples. And, ask anyone, I am extremely happy to share. When I provide these examples, I always have a caveat: Create your own example.

Every proposal is unique and requires (essentially) a ground up approach to construction. Reviewers can easily see if any prior thought has gone into the proposal. If you have included canned sections, chances are those sections will be glanced over and potentially not favorably reviewed. If nothing else, they will not increase your chance at funding.

To be competitive, original content is mandatory. That being said, example text from other proposals is an easy way to provide creative inspiration in regards to structure, content, language, and style. For example, you should always follow the current application/solicitation instructions. Never take it for granted that the sponsor requires the same information from one submission to the next. What worked for one facilities section may not work for yours. Another excellent example are letters of support. Letters need to reference the specific project and its deliverables in relation to the entity providing the letter. They must be drafted anew with each proposal.

In some instances, institutional language (either yours or the sponsor) must be provided word for word. These sections tend to be contractual in nature. It is best to consult your grants administrator or the sponsor agency when you have a question.

Proposal writing is unavoidably time intensive and extremely taxing. Boilerplate and example text should be an impetus to writing, not a short cut.