Nine ice cream scoops of varying sizes are arranged in an oval on a wood cutting board. The scoops are all silver metal and the handles are spring-loaded.

Former NSF program officer offers the inside scoop

Dr. Joyce Fernandes referred workshop participants to this tongue-in-cheek publication by the NSF Division of Astronomical Sciences.
Dr. Joyce Fernandes referred workshop participants to this tongue-in-cheek publication by the NSF Division of Astronomical Sciences.

The need to present a clear, relevant message focused on basic science was the theme of a September 16 presentation by Dr. Joyce Fernandes, Professor of Biology and former NSF Program Officer.  On writing an effective NSF proposal, Fernandes noted that “focus and packaging are key.”  She said it’s important that proposed research align with the NSF’s mission to support basic scientific research and with the goals of the program to which the investigator is applying. The best way to get an initial sense for the relevance of a proposal idea, according to Fernandes, is to read the program solicitation and to talk with the program officer prior to writing the proposal.

With funding levels hovering around 5-10% it is it important that a proposal not only follow the guidelines, but also that it stands out in a crowded field. Attention to the NSF review criteria of intellectual merit and broader impacts is also a must. Not only must an applicant propose to conduct good, sound, relevant science, but she must also demonstrate how the work will benefit students, the institution, the scientific community, and the public.  To check whether a proposal adequately addresses intellectual merit and broader impacts, Fernandes suggested PIs consider asking a colleague to read a draft and provide feedback prior to submission.

“Every solicitation has a link to funded proposal abstracts,” noted Fernandes. She advised attendees to familiarize themselves with the types of research being funded by the NSF by signing up for NSF updates on new and updated program solicitations and policies via e-mail, RSS feeds, and podcasts and on Twitter @NSF. OARS is also on Twitter @MiamiOH_OARS.  Follow us for funding and programmatic updates, as well as updates on workshops and other educational opportunities.

In addition to offering insights on how to get NSF funding, Fernandes also shared a document created by the NSF Division of Astronomical Science titled “NSF Proposals: How NOT to get funded” (see above).

Join us for more insights into the NSF on Tuesday, October 14 from 12:00 to1:00pm in Pearson 208, when Dr. Fernandes shares examples of NSF broader impacts and how to integrate research with educational activities.

Featured image by Gwen Ashley Walters via Flickr, used under Creative Commons license.

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