Proposal Writing Tips

Awards under UCGP are highly competitive, with a long-term average funding rate of about 25% for a preproposal. Here are some tips intended particularly for beginning investigators.

  • Allow enough time for prepartaion to present ideas that are clearly presented and well-thought out. Make it easy for reviewers to see what is important.
  • Seek help from more experienced scientists. The User Program Director
  • (see the Research Program Committee Tab) in your area is a good place to start your inquiries.
  • Look at earlier successful proposals in your area. The successful proposals are listed under the "titles of past awards" tab. Many of your colleagues will be happy to let you see their proposals. Note though, that you will not be given earlier proposals by the UCGP administration, because we have to treat them as confidential.
  • Try to make your proposal well rounded, in fulfilling more than one goal of the program. For example, a proposal without good user collaboration or a good facility enhancement may not fare well even if the scientific ideas are excellent. The value of fulfilling multiple goals can be understood by looking at the review questions tab, which explains how numerical scores are derived.
  • Make sure to make clear just what you are proposing. Even proposals with beautiful discussions of science, or very desirable collaborations will often fail if the reviewers cannot see what experiments or development you will carry out.
  • If you have particular external users in mind, it can be helpful to attach letters from them which demonstrate their interest in the facility or collaboration you are proposing.
  • If your proposal does not succeed, do not despair. Many times a proposal needs a more than one cycle to succeed. Look at the comments from reviewers on the online system. You can improve your proposal and try again next solicitation. Many of the reviewers also change from year to year.
  • Make use of available resources. For example, at FSU, Sponsored Research puts together workshops on grant writing.
  • Sometimes it can be of value to collaborate with external companies. For example, national Instruments offers resources to assist a PI with specifications and design of advanced instrumentation, control and numerous researchers to help successfully win grants from the NSF, DOE, and other major funding agencies. Please contact Austin Smith for more information

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