What do you want to know about writing a preproposal?

Oct 22 2014 Published by under [Education&Careers]

I've been tasked by my Research Office to give a presentation on writing NSF preproposals. This is a topic I've written about before, but I am curious what types of questions are out there. If you were attending such a presentation, what information would you hope to hear about?

6 responses so far

  • mediumpriority4life says:

    Do I have to do one this year? Oh please NSF, be good to my full proposal.

  • proflikesubstance says:

    Good luck.

  • drugmonkey says:


  • Insect Biologist says:

    I'll be making my first attempt at obtaining NSF funding this coming year, starting with submitting a preproposal in January. Your previous posts on this subject have been incredibly helpful!

    For me, the biggest question has been how to balance the various elements of the proposal (big question, preliminary data, experimental approach, evidence of necessary expertise, and broader impacts). You addressed this issue in previous posts, but I'm wondering if the answer is different for people at different stages of their career. For example, should new investigators include more experimental design details (because reviewers are less likely to give them the benefit of the doubt), despite the fact that this would take space away from big picture information?

    If I was attending your presentation, I'd also be interested in the following questions: 1) What is a good way to find examples of successful preproposals (when most of your collaborators and colleagues are supported by NIH grants)? 2) Is it useful to use language from the NSF website to link the preproposal's big question to the stated goals of the NSF? 3) Do preproposals need less preliminary data than full proposals? 4) Must I have preliminary data to support my central hypothesis, or is it enough to have preliminary data that demonstrate feasibility of approach? 5) To deal with space restrictions, can preliminary results be described simply (e.g., we found that knockdown of this gene results in this phenotype), or do preliminary results need to be presented in figures and graphs with experimental detail?

  • proflikesubstance says:

    1) For a good collection of example proposals, see here: http://jabberwocky.weecology.org/2012/08/10/a-list-of-publicly-available-grant-proposals-in-the-biological-sciences/

    2) No one is enamored with NSF-speak. Don't tell people your proposal will be transformative, especially!

    3) Less(ish). You don't have a ton of space. Use it wisely. Put the best stuff in to get people interested. Show you can do it.

    4) Officially, no. But yeah. You need to demonstrate you can do it. If you have the publication record, you have an advantage. It's just the way it is.

    5) I like to include a figure, but again, space. I think reviewers will take you at your word in the preproposals. Remember, many of them will see the full proposal, as there is a high rate of return panelists in the same cycle.

  • Insect Biologist says:

    Thanks for the really helpful information!

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