Preparing a Competitive Grant Proposal by trevorbowman

VIEWS: 21 PAGES: 33

									Preparing a Competitive Grant Proposal
MALRC Seminar Series 3
Robyn Pearson Office of Proposal Development June 11, 2008

“There is no substitute for a good idea. Give your idea the benefit of a clear presentation with an overview in the introduction, details in the body, and a summary in the conclusion.”
NSF “Guidelines for Writing Grant Proposals” http://www.nsf.gov/sbe/bcs/ling/guidelines.jsp

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Preparing to write
• Do your homework – know the agency and the program • Contact the program officer with any questions or concerns • Be sure you’re up-to-date on current publications for the literature review

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Preparing to write
• Gather any preliminary data that will support your proposal • Develop collaborations early – define roles and responsibilities • Contact your proposal administrator early (Research Foundation, TAMU Research Services, TEES, etc.)

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Writing Strategies
• Make an outline from the RFP – cut and paste to ensure that sections are ordered correctly and that you’re writing text reviewers are expecting to see within each section • Set up a schedule to complete tasks and write sections of the proposal • Ask colleagues to review your outline, and later, your proposal draft
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Writing Strategies
• Don’t be overly ambitious in your proposal – convey your credibility and capacity to perform • Make your proposal easy to read – use figures and tables, bold or italic fonts, and bullets for lists • Include white space when possible • “Assume that your reviewer is reading in bed, falling asleep – which is very likely true” (Department of Education).

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Writing Strategies
• The Summary and Introduction are the most critical parts of your proposal • Write so that a good scientist, but not necessarily an expert, in your discipline will be able to understand your proposal • Writing a proposal is very different from writing a journal article – proposals must be user-friendly and offer a compelling, strategic narrative that is memorable to reviewers

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Writing Strategies
• Avoid unnecessary text (e.g., acronyms only used a few times, or complex phrasing where concise, straightforward wording is more easily understood) • You may need to repeat information to give it greater emphasis or to answer RFP section requirements, but don’t do a straight cut-and-paste; revise and refresh your wording while keeping the original meaning and intent • And the Number 1 strategy….

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You must intrigue the reviewers!

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Convince reviewers…
• Convince reviewers that your research is:
• Important and supports the agency’s mission and program goals • Is innovative and has a good chance of success

• And that you are the person who should conduct the proposed research:
• You are knowledgeable and well qualified • You have the needed support and resources

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Typical Proposal Sections
• Project Summary • Project Description / Research Narrative
• • • • • • • Introduction / Overview Goals / Objectives / Outcomes Background and Significance Literature Review Preliminary Research / Data Methods / Management / Personnel Evaluation

• References • Budget & Budget Narrative • Biosketches & Supplementary Documents
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Project Summary
• A well-written Summary is critical to your funding success! • Must grab the reviewer’s attention and communicate the researcher’s excitement • Establishes a “roadmap” for the rest of the proposal • Should link to program goals and agency mission • Should explain that the PI / Research Team are well qualified and equipped to conduct the proposed research • Include all information required by the funder; e.g., NSF requires Broader Impacts and Intellectual Merit in Summary
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Project Description / Research Narrative
• Introduction or Overview or Specific Aims
• Often begins with broad statement of the research problem or question (a/k/a the “needs statement”) • State your goal in relation to program goals and funder mission • May identify significant gaps in current research • State specific measurable objectives (these may take form of hypotheses) • Include expected outcomes
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About Goals/Objectives/Activities/Outcomes
• These terms are often misused or used interchangeably; each agency has its own jargon (NIH, specific aims; NSF, objectives)
• Goal – broad statement of what you want to achieve with the program; may include statement of baseline data • Objective – a measurable statement of what you will do to move toward your goal; “how many” or “how much” • Activity – specific tasks or strategies to achieve an objective • Outcome – measurable statement of the proposed program’s success in reaching stated goal
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Hypothetical Example
• Needs Statement – Along Texas/Mexico border, 50 percent of at-risk students in grades PK-5 are not promoted to the next grade level (must relate to agency mission and program) • Goal – Our project will increase current retention rates among at-risk PK-5 students in 3 border counties • Objective – We will conduct 5 tutoring sessions for students and parents each semester
• Activity 1 – Teachers will plan curricula with student and parent activities in relation to current science museum exhibits • Activity 2 – Teachers, students, and parents will go on field trips to the museum to engage in hands-on learning activities

• Outcome – After the first year of tutoring, 85 percent of atrisk students will advance to the next grade level

Note: When clearly defined, your Goals, Objectives, Activities, and Outcomes form the basis for your evaluation plan

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Background and Significance
• Background – summarize current, relevant background information about the particular problem or issue
• Not an exhaustive summary of all research in the field, but a presentation of key elements relevant to your proposal

• Significance – the importance of the proposed project in filling a gap in knowledge or practice that is critical to advance the field or discipline • Background should provide a context for the proposed research, and the significance should flow directly from the background, following a general to specific trajectory
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Background and Significance
• Hypothetical Example from previous slide:
• Background – Demographic data for Texas → demographics along border → demographics in 3county study area; Overall statewide PK-5 student retention → overall retention among at-risk PK-5 students → PK-5 retention in 3-county study area • Significance – (hypothetical examples) statistics about how learning patterns and future school successes are influenced by PK-5 education → how parental involvement improves student retention → how hands-on activities increase student achievement and learning • In conclusion, show how your research will build upon previous studies and potentially serve as a model for similar educational programs statewide
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Literature Review
• Shows how you think your proposed work will fit into what has already been done • Demonstrates that you have a solid, comprehensive grasp of historical and current research within your topic area • Cite relevant publications, especially seminal, well-known publications that represent significant contributions to the field • If a partnership is involved in the proposed project, include any co-authored publications in the literature review

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Preliminary Research or Data
• Discuss your previously conducted research and use of methods that are relevant to the proposed project • Demonstrate your experience and competence to be successful and establish your proficiency in the proposed methods and techniques • Highlight previous collaborations between current partners on the proposed project, proving your capacity for teamwork and success

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Preliminary Research or Data
• Amount of preliminary data expected in a proposal varies by funding agency and discipline and may not be explicitly stated
• Talk with program manager or previous reviewers • Ask researchers who were previously funded • Read as many successful proposals as possible

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Methods / Management / Personnel
• Content will vary depending on the type of program, discipline, or funding source (federal, private, etc.) • Be explicit with your methods – what you intend to do is the heart of your proposal • Include discussion of challenges and how you plan to address them • Show how the data you collect will be used to address your objectives
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Methods / Management / Personnel
• Define each team member’s specific role and responsibilities, and describe their expertise and qualifications to successfully complete the project • Develop a reasonable time schedule to accomplish program activities • If your management plan involves outside community groups or a faculty advisory board, include letters to show support or agreement, but only if allowed in RFP

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Evaluation
• Consider using a table or Logic Model that ties evaluation criteria to specific objectives and outcomes in relation to your time schedule (see Kellogg Foundation’s
“Logic Model Development Guide” at
http://www.wkkf.org/Pubs/Tools/Evaluation/Pub3669.pdf)

• Evaluations are easier to construct when you understand the basic lingo:
• Baseline = the measure you start with • Outputs = tangible products of defined activities • Impacts = societal changes over time

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Types of Evaluation
• Formative = “process” evaluation or evaluation during project implementation • Summative = “outcome” evaluation or evaluation at the conclusion of a project • Qualitative = “soft” data, based on experience and thought (opinion survey) • Quantitative = “hard” data, based on numerical data analysis

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Continuing hypothetical example
• Baseline: 50% of at-risk PK-5 students in 3-county study area advance to next grade level • Output: Development of 5 new curricula including activities involving parents and influenced by science museum programs • Formative Evaluation: How many parents are attending tutoring sessions? Are parents and students benefiting from the shared experiences? What are teachers’ perceptions of the sessions? • Summative Evaluation: Has student learning improved? Did parents and students find the tutoring sessions and field trips helpful? How many students advanced to next grade level? Was the measurable objective attained – did grade advancement increase from 50% to 85% of students?
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Continuing hypothetical example
• Opportunities for both quantitative and qualitative methodologies in both formative and summative evaluations • Impact: Student learning outcomes have increased in all grade levels, even among those not at-risk; parents are more involved with their children’s education and school activities • Concluding Impact: this project can serve as a model for similar educational programs across the state and nation
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Evaluation Costs
• General Rule of Thumb – 10% of yearly budget should be set aside for evaluation; however, this is negotiable based on the extent of the project • Some RFPs establish a budget, others do not • Some RFPs specify use of an outside evaluator, others do not • OPDs Evaluation and Assessment resources:
• http://opd.tamu.edu/proposal-resources/onlineproject-evaluation-assessment-resources-forprincipal-investigators
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References
• Be thorough in your review of current literature and publications that are seminal to your discipline – omission of crucial relevant works can hurt your credibility • Don't cite work you haven't read – it's better to omit a work than to cite it incorrectly and reveal your ignorance of its contents • List all authors’ names and follow the same formatting throughout the References Cited section • Always double-check your citations against your References Cited section; this is no place for sloppy grantsmanship
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Budget & Budget Narrative
• Determine how much is actually needed – reviewers are typically experienced researchers and know what things cost • Ask for help from campus proposal administrators – Research Foundation, TEES, etc. • Understand budget terminology:
• Direct costs (salary, equipment, travel, etc.) • Indirect costs (facilities and administration costs, F&A)

• Typical budget categories include Personnel, Equipment, Materials, and Travel
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Budget & Budget Narrative
• Note that the TAMU System has different IDC rates for on-campus research (46.5%) vs. off-campus research (26%) • The Budget Narrative or Justification allows you to demonstrate your ability to structure and manage a project and make best use of the sponsor’s funding • If a budget justification is requested, use it to complement and expand upon details in the proposal narrative

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Biosketches & Supplementary Documents
• Biosketches
• Specific biosketch components vary from agency to agency • Pay attention to page limits sectional requirement (e.g., 10 publications total for NSF, don’t list 11!)

• Completed, Ongoing, and Pending Support • Facilities and Equipment • Letters of Support – make sure they’re allowed by agency, and ask for them early • Appendices – RFP may limit length or types of materials that are accepted
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The results are in…
• You are funded – Whoop!! • You are not funded – Bummer
• Put everything aside for a few days; then take a close look at reviewer comments and try to be as objective as possible. • View these comments as your opportunity to learn how to be more competitive the next time. • Based on comments, decide whether your proposal should be resubmitted or if you should develop a new research plan.
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Remaining OPD Seminars
• Writing a Project Summary (June 18) by Phyllis McBride • Preparing a Budget and Routing a Proposal (June 25) by Phyllis McBride

VPR/OPD Luncheon (June 26)
• Panel of experts will informally discuss their experiences with partnerships and collaborations in research funding • Room 310, JK Williams Administration Building • Catered by On the Border
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