Monthly Archives: April 2013

Executive summaries in academia

For the first time ever (in over five years of working on proposals), I had two principal investigators prepare their summaries before the rest of the proposal. This is generally unheard of in academia. Summaries are usually seen as abstracts – something to be written last, after the proposal has coalesced properly. This obviously works, as it is standard practice. However, more often than not, investigators wait until the last minute. This obviously jeopardizes the quality of what is most assuredly the only piece of paper an entire review committee will actually take the time to read.

In proposal management circles, it is recommended that executive summaries be developed while still formulating a response to a solicitation. There are workshops, books, and models of how to prepare a compelling executive summary. If you’re very good in upstream business development, you will have an executive summary prepared weeks or months ahead of a solicitation. The summary is then used to motivate team members, identify gaps in knowledge or experience, influence the sponsor, recruit others, and generally advance a discussion. I hear that it’s a very effective practice and truthfully, it’s touted by capture management professionals everywhere.

After my recent experience, I am now a believer in preparing summaries before commencing writing of the proposal. The act of preparing, editing, and circulating – then re-editing the summaries (one within a large group of collaborators and the other between just two others) was a fantastic preparatory activity for the investigators. It provided them an opportunity to frame essential points and articulate them such that their collaborators could contribute substantially later on. This early work reinforces a plan for mapping out of the proposal that hits the high points of the research, releases the investigator from that dreaded 11th hour writing of summary, and, finally, the review committee will be genuinely hooked by this exceptionally well developed document.

I know it might not happen for another five years, but I’ll continue to advocate for executive summaries in academia.


Energy Department Launches Clean Energy Manufacturing Initiative

Last week, the Energy Department launched the Clean Energy Manufacturing Initiative (CEMI), a new effort focused on growing American manufacturing of clean energy products and boosting U.S. manufacturing competitiveness through major improvements in energy productivity.
The CEMI’s investments include the recently announced SunShot Solar Manufacturing Technology (SolarMat) program, a $15 million funding opportunity to reduce the manufacturing costs of solar energy technologies and demonstrate cost-competitive, innovative manufacturing technologies that can achieve commercial production in the next few years.

Read more….

Priorities of Science Committee Republicans on DOE Science, NASA, NIST, NOAA, and NSF

A good indicator of the views of House Science Committee Republicans on the Department of Energy’s Office of Science, NASA, National Institute of Standards and Technology, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and National Science Foundation can be found in a eight-page document submitted to the House Budget Committee. “Views and Estimates; Committee on Science, Space and Technology; Fiscal Year 2014” provides insight into the positions of twenty of the twenty-one committee Republicans on these agencies and the Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Homeland Security, and the Department of Transportation.


Building Support for the DOE Office of Science

Constituents interested in building support for the Department of Energy’s Office of Science have the opportunity to contact their representative to sign a letter to key House appropriators. The deadline for signatures on this letter is April 10.

Read more….

Funding Success Skills Series (fs3) – Transitioning to Large and/or Strategic Proposals

As part of the Funding Success Skills Series (fs3), ASU’s Research Strategy Group recently hosted a panel discussion on transitioning to large and/or strategic proposals (click here to see the video). Almost 50 attendees listened to five seasoned faculty and staff members describe how they achieved success in establishing research centers at ASU.

Stephen Batalden, Director of the Melikian Center, recently received a large award for his work in Armenia and related to the audience how his center considered funding agency priorities in concert with ASU expertise when designing a strategic plan for funding growth.

Bruce Rittmann, Regent’s Professor and Director of the Swette Center for Environmental Biotechnology in the Biodesign Institute, is motivated to do large projects because they allow you to expand your research portfolio by creating synergistic relationships  and utilize a range of personnel and services at ASU, including OKED’s Project Management Office.

Jane Maienschein, Regent’s Professor and Director of the Center for Biology and Society, emphasized that attendees should be prepared to pursue any size award and create a record of research achievement for themselves that will logically build to a center approach to research.

Flavio Marsiglia, Director of the Southwest Interdisciplinary Research Center (SIRC), related how large projects create a pool of shared resource and, contributes to an accumulation of knowledge across staff members that decreases time to start new projects and improves the overall quality of research.

John McGowen, Portfolio Manager, recommended that the audience create a rapport within their existing network and partnerships such that they can leverage relationships later. He also stated that the audience should find ways to invest at a relatvely small scale over time to advance emerging and diverse research projects.

A previous post describes the inaugural event in the fs3 series.

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 proposals. For more information, contact RSG: researchstrategy (@)

The next event, Why do I need to Finish Early? The Importance of Internal Reviews, is scheduled for May 16, 2013.