Two interesting tidbits from NSF

Apr 04 2013 Published by under [Education&Careers]

I know the blog has been ridic NSF-centric recently, so apologies to my foreign readers who don't give a crap on a stick about US funding. Tis' the season, however.

Two interesting (to me) things to pass on today. The first is from the DEB blog, which posted about collaborative proposals today. The moral of the story: in tight financial times, collaborate less if you want to get funded. To wit:

Such a decrease actually makes sense in the context of a limited and uncertain budget. Especially given the focus on funding rates and maximizing the number of projects awarded, programs have an incentive to spread the available funding over as many projects as possible. Programs also seek balance between multi-investigator and single investigator project awards. If multi-investigator projects with smaller collaborative groups cost less than similar projects supporting larger groups of PIs and Co-PIs, the funds saved on the less costly projects could enable more awards to be made in total.

Second interesting note came from a conversation with my PO yesterday: Everyone who was on the fence for funding in the last round was asked to re-submit a preproposal in January just in case they did not get money from the last fiscal. This way they could still resubmit a full proposal in August. For many, the money came through and their preproposal was "officially" declined in the system. BUT, not before the sring panels met this year. This served as an unintentional experiment - would the fence-sitters' preproposals get selected a second time by a different panel?

The answer, at least for my PO, was yes. Every resubmitted hoping-for-funding preproposal got reselected in the new panel, suggesting that there are not major swings in panel opinion one year to the next. I don't know how many panels that was true for, nor how many preproposals, but internal controls are always interesting.

9 responses so far

  • Anon says:

    This only holds true if the panel membership changed that year. I sat on the same panel 2 yrs in a row and only a couple people switched out on the second year, so the membership was very nearly the same in those 2 yrs.

  • proflikesubstance says:

    In this case, they were different panels.

  • Odyssey says:

    "Collaborate less" can be dreadful advice. You should collaborate as much as is necessary to get the science done. No more and certainly no less. If you need to scale back the budget, scale back on how much science you're proposing, not how many collaborators you need. Reviewers will quite rightfully pound a proposal which doesn't have the right expertise to complete the work.

  • Tree guy says:

    That is interesting, I wondered if they were going to do that. Which cluster?

  • Terry says:

    This is curious. This only reinforces the notion that you need to be "in line" to get funding by submitting again and again over multiple years, which I've heard is pervasive in systematics. If you're on the cusp and don't get funded, well, you'll be sure to get a full review next year after you go through the whole procedure again!

  • proflikesubstance says:

    Terry, I'm not sure I interpret it the same way. Having reviewed for two preproposal panels now, it's clear there are a sub-section of proposals that are just good and a majority that aren't. If there was a lot of variation from one panel to the next even when the same proposals are submitted, then I think NSF would have to rethink the entire four page format. It's not a matter of queuing up, it's a matter of consensus as to which proposals are feasible and interesting.

  • anonymous says:

    I'm still waiting on the fence from my proposal submitted last year. Is anyone else?

  • birdgirl says:

    It's interesting that some panels allowed pre-proposals from those still not officially declined. I was in that position in January. When I brought up to my PO that, in the event that funding didn't come through, I would have missed my opportunity to re-submit this particular pre-proposal, I curtly was told it could be officially declined (and I mean officially), giving me the chance to resubmit. Of course, I did not take the PO up on this offer. I am still waiting for an official award announcement...

  • anonymous says:

    Wow, I think you were misled. I was told by my Program Director to be sure to submit another preliminary proposal just in case while last year's remained on the fence - and that the preliminary nature of it meant it wasn't considered doubling up (having 2 proposals under consideration at the same time on the same project), at least until full proposal time comes.

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