Re: Do people need help with proposal writing? Sally Eckert-Tilotta (Sally Eckert-Tilotta) 24 Apr 1998 14:18 EST

But Anne, are you really a hired gun?  Do you write proposals for these faculty, or do you edit *their* work?  A hired gun, in my mind, gathers info from a PI to support a proposal that he/she writes, or rewrites a PI's first draft.  Or at least, in a collaborative project, collects the pieces contributed by others and writes a "frame" connecting them together.  Not only designs how a proposal is put together, but actually puts it together.

But you bring up a point that program officers in federal agencies have certainly said to me.  Proposals generally fail not because the science is bad, but because the science was poorly presented.

Sally Eckert-Tilotta, PhD, Assistant to the Director
Office of Research and Program Development
University of North Dakota
Grand Forks, ND  58202
tel:  701-777-2049
fax: 701-777-2504

>>> "ANNE C. CHISHOLM" <xxxxxx@ODU.EDU> 04/24 2:38 PM >>>
Dear Colleagues:

I am one of those "hired guns".  I help faculty members produce
proposals which are attractive to funding agencies.  In the past
several years, I helped faculty bring in awards totalling approximately $20 million.

I tell faculty that winning
a grant is 50% "good science" and 50% "good presentation" and that if
either one of these areas is lacking, the proposal will probably not
be funded.  The best "science" in the world will not be funded in
this competitive arena if the reviewer has to read the first two
pages of the proposal twice in order to understand what is being
proposed.  ("Science" as it is used here includes all proposed
academic areas of research).

Proposal writing is a skill and an art.  Faculty members whose first language
is not English need help presenting their ideas (as
others pointed out) but so do the rest of the faculty including those
with tenure and those who are just starting.

Presenting ideas in such a way that the reviewer can easily follow
the logic of the ideas, is excited about the project, understands its
significance and its potential impact upon science/the world/etc.,
and is thoroughly convinced that the idea is new and innovative yet
is strongly anchored in and will significantly enhance the current
state of knowledge is a skill that many faculty do not have.

In my position, I assist faculty from all fields.  I do not need to
be an expert in their area of science because I am not attempting to
impact the scientific content of their proposal.  Proving the
innovativeness and merit of the science is the PI's problem.  Helping
the PI to present that innovativeness and merit in such a way that the
reviewer will be convinced is my problem.

That approach works.


Anne Chisholm
Director for Research Development
Office of Research, Economic Development, and Graduate Studies
Old Dominion University
Norfolk, VA 23529-0013
Phone - 757-683-3707
Fax   - 757-683-3004