NSF grant musing

Feb 09 2012 Published by under [Education&Careers]

A couple of months ago I signed up for a NSF Bio preproposal panel. I did so without really knowing what I was in for; I mean, this is the first time it is happening, so it's up in the air. This week, however, I got the conflict of interest (COI) spreadsheet. This document is sent out to panelist to identify any proposals they should not be assigned or will have to step out of the room for during the discussion.

Based on a comparison to the last time I received a COI document from this same panel, I am estimating that the number of preproposals is in the neighborhood of 3X the number of full proposals this panel has recently received. The exact number isn't possible for me to guess because I'm not able to tell what the average number of PIs is on a co-PI proposal from the data I have, but given the new constraints my guess it it won't be far from 2.

So, if you're keeping track at home, the preproposals are 1/3 the length of the full proposals but 3X are submitted, making that a wash. I'm not clear whether there will be ad hocs for the preproposals, but my assumption is not. In August there will be a substantial reduction to what I expect will be ~20% of the preproposals coming back as full proposals. These will almost certainly go through ad hoc review, but their number will be a little less than half (I'm guessing based on convos with POs) the normal load. SO the ad hoc load will be drastically reduced on an annual basis (again, assuming no ad hocs for the preproposals) but the panelist load will be only slightly reduced along the same time period, with a big advantage going to the fall panel.

More to come as I get more info.

6 responses so far

  • anon says:

    I signed up for this, too, but did not get invited ): . I wonder if they got a lot of volunteers this time?

  • FSGrad says:

    PLS, you are awesome. Thanks for the play-by-play for those of us reading at home. As you can doubtless tell by my pseud, I am not a PI on a prepoposal (nor am I going to be one in the near future), but I really appreciate seeing the innards of NSF like this.

  • Martini says:

    Most people I know submitted two proposals with the idea of throwing things to the wall to see what sticks.

    It will be interesting to hear back about the quality range of the pre proposals.

  • babakubwa says:

    1/3 the length X 3 times the number is only a wash for total number of pages you have to read. You will still have to write a separate eval for every preproposal! Have fun....

  • proflikesubstance says:

    Don't think I'm not painfully aware of the burden on the preproposal panelists. Painfully.

    FS Grad, Part of the reason I started blogging was to crate a resource for other people in my position or following. Getting this type of info out there is important, which is why I continue to be disappointed that NSF is dropping the ball when it comes to online interaction with those who apply there. NIH has made a concerted effort to inform via blogs and engagement while NSF sits on their hands. Lost opportunity, IMO.

  • Neuropop says:

    Have been invited to be on a panel as well. Apparently I have to read ~15 preproposals which is 2X the usual load. So more evaluations, but less reading than before. I think with this many proposals the quality of argumentation in the project summary will make all the difference. I hope to post back in comments when I am done with my panel review (no specifics, but just the general feel for the process).

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