Adventures in Grant Land

Jul 22 2011 Published by under Uncategorized

I have just finished writing my first-ever NSF grant. Now that it is submitted it has a slightly-higher-than-zero chance of being funded. Fingers crossed and all. First things first, if you are going to be writing an NSF grant you should start by reading the excellent advice from Odyssey.

Now, I'm more used to the NIH as a granting agency. So there were some NSF...peculiarities, let's say, that I noticed and found amusing. FOR EXAMPLE: you don't get to know who is going to review your grant. At NIH you can find the study section roster online and know who your audience is going to be. I find this reassuring. But for NSF you submit a list of potential reviewers, as if you were submitting a manuscript. Apparently the Program Officer could call upon these folks, or potentially someone else, to review your grant. But you never know. There may be some methods to slueth out who is reviewing your grant*. So, I have just thrown my EVER SO AWESOME grant to an unknown pack of wolves **.

The NSF also requires that you write a Data Management Plan that outlines what kind of data you are going to collect, how you are going to archive and disseminate it, etc. PLS has a much better description with useful advice and everything. When I was trying to figure this bit out, I did however, run across this most excellent and apparently frequently asked question on the NSF web site:


HI, I would like some $$ to NOT generate data or samples. Kthnx.

Now, before you get all crazy on me, I get that you could be writing to fund a conference or something. I just find this question amusing, all out-of-context. You will also need a post-doc mentoring plan. But if you have thought at all about what a postdoc should be getting out of being a postdoc this isn't so difficult. Also, for both of these you may find that your MRU has guidelines and helpful tips online (thanks, MRU!) If your MRU hasn't gotten around to this, you could always use the google to find someone who has 🙂

Another thing that became obvious during the writing of this grant are some serious deficiencies in MS Word. First of all, there should be a "recall text box" command. MORE THAN ONCE I lost a text box while trying to get figures put into the damn file. Someone on twitter actually recommended that I use this command and I went looking for it, only to find out that it doesn't exist (thanks, Namnezia! grrr). There should also be a command that organizes a random list of thoughts/experiments into coherent aims. This is more advanced, which may require a plug-in of some sort. Or maybe there should just be a grant-writing robot. That would be OK, too.

FINALLY, since it is Friday, I thought I would share with you some of my super-fun emails that I am just finally catching up on. First, I have apparently been tenured, only 5 years early!

My MRU really needs to check their mailing lists, methinks.

Second, I have a fall-back plan if this (and all the others I am dreaming of writing) don't fly thanks to the kind soul that sent me this email:

NO PROFESSION SKILLZ! I TOTALLY HAVE THAT!!

Thanks to everyone who kept me company and offered moral support as I was doing this. You know who you are!

Have a great weekend! 😀

*it was brought up on the twitter that sometimes around NSF review meetings your lab website will get a lot of hits from new places. This may reflect who is reading/reviewing your grant, so if you are looking at your analytics then you may be able to guess who your reviewers are. It was also proposed that you could also go for some pity-points by adding a video to your website with pictures of cute children and small furry animals that might not make it without funding for your lab (sneaky secret panel slueth strategy via Namnezia, video idea added by Cackle of Rad, my most-awesome conspirator in this whole grant-writing thing).

**if any NSF reviewers are reading this, I <3 you.

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