Writing successful proposals: The NERC standard round. Robin Hogan Head of Department for Research, Meteorology 29 October 2012 Thanks to Sue Gray. What is a good idea for responsive mode?. “Research councils fund the cutting edge of the status quo”. Steve Hubbell, originally said of NSF.
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Head of Department for Research, Meteorology
29 October 2012
Thanks to Sue Gray
“Research councils fund the cutting edge of the status quo”
Steve Hubbell, originally said of NSF
What’s the next great idea in this field?
Do more work first
NERC responsive mode
Satellite intercalibration and quality-control to produce a climate-quality dataset
NERC national capability?
Can it be done by a postdoc in 3 years?The excitement-maturity diagram
Is the problem to be addressed well-formulated?
Is it important, with clear external beneficiaries?
Is it a research problem, or routine application of known technique?
Do the proposers have a good idea on which to base their work?
Does the proposal explain clearly what work will be done?
Do the proposers discuss previous work and its limitations?
Is the proposal cost-effective and ambitious, but realistic?
Is it simultaneously comprehensible to non-experts but contains technical details that are convincing to experts?
Is it interesting to read?
Is it easy to skim-read?
Use recommended style: 11pt Arial, 2cm margins
Right and left justify the text: looks more professional
Number sections and subsections in the main 8-page part
Proof read very carefully
Specific departmental blurb
e.g. strong support for modelling, [email protected], etc.
Recent relevant references
Shrink down if necessary – investigators’ CVs are included in submission already
You are the stars and the ones on whom the success of the project depends, much more so than the institution
Focus on yourachievements
Jargon and undefined acronymsExample track record
The PI for the project is Dr Belchina Bloggs, who manages a research group on “clouds and caligraphy” within the Department of Meteorology consisting of 3 postdocs and 2 PhD students. The group’s aim is to understand the haptic reservoir at the glyph-nephrological interface. The interplay between the cursive ascender and turbulent kinetic energy dissipation has become a focus of several ongoing studies. Dr Bloggs is also involved in an EU project on the application of PS.
Strong words/phrasesA better track record
Dr Belchina Bloggs (Principal Investigator)
2005-2009 Lecturer, Department of Meteorology, University of Reading
2009-present Senior Lecturer, Depts of Meteorology and Typography
Dr Bloggs has published over 40 peer-reviewed papers, which have accrued over 400 citations. She has made many advances at the interface of cloud physics and caligraphy, of particular relevance to this proposal being her discovery that the cursive ascender in caligraphy can be used to predict the role of clouds in the climate system (Bloggs et al. 2008). She reformulated the problem of turbulence in clouds in terms of Potential Squiggliness for the first time (Bloggs 2010), and is now leading a key part of an EU project “Transform” to apply this to global models.
But note the following from the NERC Grants Handbook:
“Indicate where your previous work has contributed to the UK’s competitiveness or to improving the quality of life.”
Final blurbLaying out your arguments
Each paragraph should provide one of the following:
Review and limitations of previous work
New idea and/or key objectives
What we will actually do
An abstract is to entice people to read the whole document;
An executive summary is for people too lazy to read the whole document
Must be understandable without the rest of the proposal
But it is also very useful for those who do read everythingWhy an executive summary?
Limitations of previous work;
new idea / key objective(s)
List of things that will be done to achieve this objective
Background: “Background: The challenge of…”
New idea: “A new approach to…”
Work plan (possibly a more general methodology section first)
Justification of Resources must state why something is needed
Always ask for generous travel, computer, page charges
PI time typically 10% and less for Co-Is, but consider asking for more (with justification)
…and don’t give up if you’re not successful the first time!