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Funded Proposals to Federal and Private Agencies

This Web site, a supplement to Thomas Blackburn's book Getting Science Grants: Effective Strategies for Funding Success (Jossey-Bass, 2003), contains the abstracts, narratives, and budgets of eleven funded proposals for research in a variety of scientific fields (below). This site also contains a directory of useful information on grants and granting agencies in science.

July 2005 Updates:

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A somewhat unsettling article in Nature for June 9, 2005, ("Scientists Behaving Badly," by B. C. Martinson, M. S. Anderson, and R. de Vries, Nature 435, 737-738, available on-line at http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v435/n7043/full/435737a.html) , summarizes the results of a survey study of early – and mid-career scientists in regard to self-described ethical lapses in the conduct of research. As many as 20% of mid-career scientists confessed to "changing the design, methodology, or results of a study in response to pressure from a funding source." (emphasis added). Thankfully, the number who went so far as to falsify data – or at least admit to falsifying – was very low (less than 1%), though it was twice as high for early-career as for mid-career scientists.

Two comments: One, the population sampled was limited to recipients of NIH grants. Without wanting to start something here, it is arguable that the population pressure, the reward structure and, sometimes, the statistically slippery nature of the data in life sciences research puts a lot of pressure on researchers to take a sunny view of their own results, particularly when that research is very expensive, and someone with a big economic stake in the results is funding it.

Two, response to the survey was voluntary and anonymous. As Martinson et al. point out, it is reasonable to suppose that the incidence of "bad behavior" among non-responders may be higher than that of responders, and thus that the picture painted by this survey is less gloomy than reality. Getting Science Grants has discussions of ethics in proposal-writing, in Chapters 4 and 6. If you're smart enough to have bought my book, you're smart enough to do your research without cutting corners. And you'll feel great about it.

July 2005 Tip of the Month:

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A recent phone call from a society for which I present proposal-writing workshops wanted to know what I am saying about the NSF's "broader impacts" criteria. These are funding criteria that consider matters other than simple scientific merit of a proposal, and they include such benefits as participation of under-represented groups, enhancement of infrastructure, dissemination, and benefits to society (see p. 58 of Getting Science Grants). Seems the NSF is checking to make sure everyone understands how seriously they take these broader impacts. Got it? If not, see the Tip of the Month for July 2004, and the NSF grant proposal guide at http://www.nsf.gov/pubsys/ods/getpub.cfm?gpg.

Notice the very wide variety of lengths and formats—in all cases conforming to the requirements of the funding agency! In some proposals, details about the identity of the principal investigator, salaries, or specifics of the research have been suppressed at the request of the proposal's author. In no case do such slight changes affect the document's usefulness as a model of good proposal writing.

  1. ACS Petroleum Research Fund (ACS PRF) Type B Grant: "SEM Stereogrammetric Studies of Etch Pit Growth Rates in Weathering Reactions."
    In the spirit of leading by example, Tom Blackburn submits the last research proposal he wrote before he became a grants program officer. The American Chemical Society's Petroleum Research Fund is a private trust that supports research in any field of science "the results of which may lead to subsequent research directly in the Petroleum Field." The Type B grants program is limited to departments that do not offer graduate degrees. For a discussion of when to pursue grants within a restricted-eligibility program of this type, see "Grants for Faculty at Undergraduate Institutions" in Chapter Two of Getting Science Grants.

  2. NASA Mars Data Analysis Program: "Sedimentary Geochemistry of Martian Samples from the Pathfinder Mission."
    The National Aeronautics and Space Administration is a good example of a federal research program in which the available resources are heavily (but not exclusively) earmarked for continuing research by investigators already holding grants from the agency. For a discussion and heads-up about this practice, see page 28 in Getting Science Grants. The proposal excerpted here is a new initiative that was subsequently renewed for additional support.

  3. NIH National Institute on Aging, RO3 Small Research Grants Program: Cysteine Dioxygenase Transgenic Mouse Model."
    The National Institutes of Health's RO3 program is designed to allow a brief, fixed-budget proposal for research of limited scope. Requirements are much simpler than those for proposals in the larger NIH RO1 grants program, of which two examples follow.

  4. NIH National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, RO1 Research Grant: "Spatial Analysis in Children with Focal Brain Injury."
    For an introduction to NIH review criteria, see Exhibit 3.1 in Chapter Three of Getting Science Grants.

  5. NIH National Institute of Mental Health, RO1 Research Grant: "Neurotransmitter Function in C. elegans."

  6. NSF Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) Program: "Chemistry as the Focus of an Interdisciplinary Summer Research Program at Wellesley College."
    The National Science Foundation's REU program provides opportunities for participation in research for undergraduates at their own or a different institution. Guidance for students seeking such opportunities and for faculty contemplating an application to establish a REU site are given on NSF's REU Web page, which you can access by clicking on the link at the beginning of this paragraph. For a discussion of the value of undergraduate research in attracting foundation support, see "Grants for Faculty at Undergraduate Institutions" in Chapter Two and "From the Heart: Writing 'Excellent' Proposals" in Chapter Five of Getting Science Grants.

  7. NSF Course, Curriculum, and Laboratory Improvement (CCLI) Program: "Laboratory Investigations Using Quantitative Microscopy."
    The National Science Foundation's CCLI program is a good place to seek funding for truly innovative educational programs at the undergraduate level. Though it readily supports purchase of capital equipment, it is not a good program if that alone is your primary motivation. (The NSF Major Research Instrumentation program http://www.nsf.gov/od/oia/programs/mri/start.htm is a better bet if you just need to upgrade your capital equipment.) For a discussion of using research grants to buy capital equipment, see "Using Research Grants to Buy Equipment" in Chapter Two and "Capital Equipment" in Chapter Four of Getting Science Grants.

  8. NSF Research in Undergraduate Institutions (RUI) Program: "Peptide Based Macrocycles as Chemosensors for Metal Ions."
    According to the National Science Foundation's RUI Web site, "The specific objectives of RUI are to: (1) support high-quality research by faculty members at predominantly undergraduate institutions, (2) strengthen the research environment in academic departments that are oriented primarily toward undergraduate instruction, and (3) promote the integration of research and education." RUI proposals compete for support with regular NSF research grants in each disciplinary directorate. For a discussion of when to pursue grants within a restricted-eligibility program of this type, see "Grants for Faculty at Undergraduate Institutions" in Chapter Two of Getting Science Grants. The budget for this proposal is shown in a separate file.

  9. Research Corporation, Cottrell College Science Awards: "Path Instabilities of Rising Air Bubbles and Falling Spheres in Viscous Fluids."

  10. Research Corporation, Cottrell College Science Awards: "Size Effects of Barium Titanate Nano-Crystals Investigated by Near-Field Scanning Optical Microscopy."
    Research Corporation is another good private source of research funding in the physical sciences (mainly astronomy, chemistry, and physics). Its Cottrell College Science Awards program is limited to faculty members in departments that offer bachelor's or master's degrees, but not doctorates. For a discussion of when to pursue grants within a restricted-eligibility program of this type, see "Grants for Faculty at Undergraduate Institutions" in Chapter Two of Getting Science Grants.

  11. U.S. Department of Energy: "Controls on Gas Hydrate Formation and Dissociation, Gulf of Mexico: In Situ Field Study with Laboratory Characterizations of Exposed and Buried Gas Hydrates."
    The DOE is a good place to go for large energy-related grants. (Before you decide that your research is not energy-related, talk to a program officer. Practically any research in the physical sciences has something to do with energy!) However, as in NASA, the DOE's funding is dominated by renewals of support for established researchers. For a discussion of this practice, see pages 28-29 in Chapter Two of Getting Science Grants.