Proposal Preparation: Insights Into What Seems to Work

Proposal Preparation: Insights Into What Seems to Work

Proposal Preparation: Insights Into What Seems to Work

Sonia Esperança, Program Director, Petrology and Geochemistry (EAR), Geosciences Directorate, NSF

April 1, 2016


Former DTM postdoctoral fellow Sonia Esperança  (1985-1987), now National Science Foundation (NSF) Program Director, Petrology and Geochemistry, Division of Earth Sciences - GEO Directorate, and co-recipient of the American Geophysical Union’s 2015 Edward A. Flinn III Award, presented a postdoctoral development workshop on proposal preparation on Friday, April 1, 2016 for DTM, GL, the Smithsonian, and University of Maryland postdoctoral fellows and associates.

Esperança received her Ph.D. in geology from Arizona State University in 1985. Prior to joining NSF in 1999, she held research and teaching positions in geology and geochemistry at Old Dominion University in Virginia, at the School of Aquatic Sciences and Environmental Management, Deakin University in Victoria, Australia, in the Department of Earth Sciences, Monash University in Victoria Australia, and at the Department of Geology, University of Maryland.

This workshop focused on what Esperança has seen work for others when writing and submitting winning proposals to NSF.  

Key takeaways from the talk included:

  • A proposal is a pitch to conduct research that will ADD, not embellish or repeat, to your field
  • Demonstrate that the time you took to make this proposal will be the care you put into your research project and manage your education program
  • Follow the grant policy documents closely to ensure the proposal is compliant 
  • Start proposal prep as early as possible
  • A highly competitive project will be: a novel idea, well written, well justified, include a research plan that will address the question, will have broader impact
  • Has a well-prepared STEM education component
  • Includes a data management plan 
  • If you cannot write well, take a class! 
  • If your proposal is declined, stay calm and do not get discouraged - read the reviews, ask others to interpret them for you, and resubmit only after addressing the proposal's significant weaknesses

In attendance: 

DTM: Sergio Dieterich, Jessica Donaldson, Brad Foley, Amanda Lough, Miki Nakajima, Erika Nesvold, Rita Parai, Amelie Simon (Visitor), Myriam Telus, Chris Thissen

GL: Michael Ackerson, Neil Bennett, Zhixue Du, Megan Duncan, Stephen Elardo, Charlene Estrada, Zachary Geballe, Michael Guerette, Nick Holtgrewe, Daniel Hummer, Colin Jackson, Cheng Ji, Bing Li, Chao Liu, Shi Liu, Sergey Lobanov, Ajay Kumar Mishra, Andrew Needham, Corliss Kin I Sio, Hiroyuki Takenak,  Rajasekarakumar Vadapoo

Smithsonian: Mattia Pistone, Laura Waters

University of Maryland: Raj Moulik, Andi Mundl, Tolulope Morayo Olugboji

Scientific Staff & Other: Rick Carlson, Robin Dienel, Jackie Dixon, Peter Driscoll, Janice Dunlap, Peter van Keken, Steven Shirey