Dr. Mom, My Adventures as a Mommy-Scientist

Discussion of my journey from grad school to postdoc to tenure with two kids, a husband, (and a bit of breast cancer) in tow.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

The anatomy of a proposal

Sorry I haven't updated recently. I have had a terrible cold and was pretty much a walking zombie the last few days.

As I mentioned in some of my previous posts, I am trying to get out a couple proposals for a mid-Sept. deadline. This has to be the slowest process on the planet. So here are a few highlights of my recent work.

On all the grant solicitations, they encourage you to discuss your ideas with a program officer, and my faculty mentors have also encouraged me to do this, saying it increases my chances of getting funded. So, I have been trying to reach program officers for 3-4 weeks, and my emails and calls were not returned. Really makes you feel welcome, doesn't it?

Then, last week I was cleaning my office and came across a sheet I picked up at my field's national conference last year that contains all the phone numbers for the program officers and their administrative assistant. I called the adminstrative assistant and had my call returned within two days.

I explained my two ideas to the program officer, who liked both of them, but indicated that they are really underfunded this year and that I probably shouldn't submit both ideas to the same solicitation. He recommended that I submit one idea to this solicitation and the other to another solicitation that I had aleady been thinking about. However, that solicitiation has limited submission, meaning that I would have to compete on campus before even making to the national funding agency. Historically, my success with these internal competitions has been poor because I am a brand new faculty member with no students, no funding, and limited publications. In order to increase my chances of success, I am trying to align myself with more senior faculty so I can get more money (large $$$ multi-PI grants) and increase my chance of getting past the school level. The deadline for this though is Nov, so it is effectively sidelined until next month.

I spent some time doing literature searches for the idea that will be proposed to the Sept. solicition and encountered a few technical issues. I decided to contact postdoc advisor for help, suggestions, and to try to encourage collaboration. Postdoc advisor is wonderful and recommends Dr. Bigname as a potential collaborator. Advisor calls Dr. Bigname and sets up a telephone call so that I can pitch my stuff to Dr. Bigname.

This is great, but I still haven't started writing the proposal, and with all the additions, changes, and discussions, the focus keeps changing. I am really excited and think that we will really put something nice together. But I am discouraged that the program officer went on about how little money the agency has this year and how the funding rates will be low. All I really want to do is starting writing, but I still need to talk to Dr. Bigname, and do some more lit searches. It is alas, a slow process.


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