Friday, August 14, 2009

I have finally finished writing my first grant proposal, the cover page of which is displayed above. This process began about three months ago, but completely engulfed me about one month ago. For the past three weeks I have done nothing but work on this grant, honing its description of work, massaging its details into a concise and persuasive argument that is intelligible to experts and non-experts, making it easy to read on multiple levels and judge with respect to the criteria used in the review process. To give you an idea of what is in this proposal, here is its Table of Contents:
You can see that it is in classical arch form. Section 1 is about my proposed work, why it is important, what needs to be done, what is going to be done, how it is going to be done, what is novel about what is going to be done and how it is going to be done --- all with reference to the state-of-the-art in the field. Section 2 describes exactly how Europe benefits from me being one brain among many in the collective pursuit of knowledge. Section 3 presents my work and experience, which necessarily contains a big-headed account of me. Section 4 has specifics to prove I have thought through the work by providing a time-line with goals, and that the host institution can suitably contribute to this work. Section 5 persuades that the proposed work has positive benefits for institutions in Europe and their collaborative work with the US. The final section describes any ethical issues that are part of the research. (And just now in producing this little post I noticed that the name of Section 1.1 should be "PrincipAL Aim and Proposed Objectives.")

The proposal has now been formally submitted, and will move through the tedious pipes of the rigorous and unmerciful process of review and rejection. As my supervisor has noted, what happens is that several experts and non-experts, maybe among them a philosopher and dentist, hole up for several days (in my case Oct. 5-23), pouring over hundreds of proposals, each one getting progressively tired and angry by lack of clarity, confusing organization, worn out platitudes, typos, misuse of "principle" for "principal," and so on. The rule of thumb is to not give them any reason to dislike you. The best thing to do is make their job easy. Show them exactly what they are looking for and do it persuasively. Less important, but still helpful, is to have a good acronym. SPRINT is a good acronym because it is easy to say, and its connotations of speed fit with some aims in my proposed work. A bad acronym is VLDCMCAR (pronounced vldcmcar).

Word of my proposal's rejection should be sent December 2009. And my rejection letter to their rejection letter will soon follow. Regardless of the outcome, through this process I have learned an important skill that will be used again and again during my lifetime as a professor. If that doesn't work out, I can always use it in helping develop government health care proposals.

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