I have to gut one of my bread and butter proposals. I don't want to do it, but it has to happen. I've talked to my PO and to a few other people, and shifting the approach I'm going to take with this proposal is the only thing that makes a lot of sense and will give it a better shot at getting over the funding hump.
It took me a little while to figure this out because I kept thinking that they just wanted a little more "preliminary" data, and if I could provide it, all would be good. But with this project, the preliminary data I kept piling on was like thinking that I could just give a junkie a little more smack and they would be fine. In the time this proposal has been submitted, I have already completed two of the original objectives and published one of them (all while changing the focus of the proposal to reflect these advances). Despite this, the panel wanted more, which made me realize that the particular route I was taking was only going to be satisfactory when either A) It was done and I could make it pretty clear that I wasn't full of shit, or B) changes in technology made the process more trivial to do. Both of these things are happening, but not soon enough. So when one side of the fortress is impenetrable, its time to try the back door.
The change means that I need to pull out a substantial amount of text that is no longer relevant to the new aims. It is never fun trashing text you worked hard to create, but one thing I did not expect was realizing I should have done some of this sooner.
I have gotten enough feedback on this particular piece of writing over a long enough time that pieces of it are starting to look like a mash up of the original and various responses to criticism along the way. It has gotten cumbersome and crowded. There is text in there that no longer needs to occupy the space it does, but has remained as an ancient relic, left there because it was once a cornerstone to a building that no longer exists. In the last round I was so focused on getting our new data into the proposal that I didn't prune out things that were de-emphasized. As painful as it is to delete whole sections that took time to assemble, I am amazed at how much better the whole thing is going to look.
Part of the text removal is in response to being a panelist, as well. My current proposal is pretty dense, with just a couple of figures - the exact type of proposal that would cause me to sigh when I picked it up at 11:00pm with the hope I could get it reviewed before 1:00 so I could get some sleep. Something tells me I am not the only reviewer in this situation, so why do I want to make someone else sigh when they flip through my proposal? The slash and burn routine will open up space for more figures and allow me to let the text breathe a bit and maybe even put some space between paragraphs. I don't need to cram 17 pages of stuff into 15 pages because reviewers probably spend less time reading packed proposals, not more.
This is going to be a lot of work, but I like this proposal and I think I would like it as a reviewer, even at 11:00pm.