Initial Publication Date: April 13, 2012

Information for Modified Proposal Summary

To participate in this (optional) session, read and follow the instructions below, and upload your summary by May 18, 2012.

Improving Research Proposals Through Review of Your Proposal Summaries

One of the choices for the workshop session on Moving Your Research/Scholarly Activity Forward is to participate in a constructive, carefully structured proposal review session. Participants in this session must submit a one-page modified proposal summary and some additional contextual information in advance of the workshop. They will receive specific feedback on their research idea and proposal as well as discuss key aspects of successful proposals. The following instructions are ONLY for those participants who want to be in this session.

The proposal summaries submitted by participants will be used as the core of a proposal development session that has two main goals: 1) to provide you with specific critical comments to help you develop and present your idea for the proposed project; and 2) to discuss attributes critical to all well-constructed proposals.

The central activity in this session will be to provide constructive critique on your submitted summaries. You will receive substantive feedback from at least two workshop facilitators and three participants who will read and discuss YOUR summary. All participants who join in this session will submit a summary and all will serve as a 'reviewer'. We will remind participants that all reviewers are required to keep summary reviews and contents confidential. Your project summary will NOT be posted to any website, and all hard copies that you do not take with you will be destroyed after the end of the session.

Past participants have found the session well worth the upfront time commitment required to hone the modified proposal summary prior to submittal. Here are past participants' comments about this specific session:

  • The project summary review session was one of the most useful parts of the workshop. I never had anyone teach me how to write an effective summary before, so this session was highly valuable.
  • I felt a bit reluctant about preparing the summary ahead of time, but in the end, I was VERY glad that I did. I had a topic that was relatively unrefined at that time; the feedback from the group helped me figure out what I needed to work on to turn it into a real proposal. Reviewing other people's summaries was an eye-opening experience too. I think this was one of the best sessions in the entire workshop.
  • The project summary mock panel workshop was one of the most practical and valuable sessions during the week. Hearing other people interpret my writing and critique my ideas was a valuable exercise and gave me insight into what makes a good project summary. It was definitely time well spent ahead of time given the feedback I received.

Research Proposal Summary Requirements

The first step towards getting your proposal funded (or your pre-proposal reviewed) is to READ AND FOLLOW THE DIRECTIONS (please)! Use this as an opportunity to practice submitting a proposal, keeping in mind that in the real world your application will likely be thrown out before it's been read if the instructions are not followed.

The summary should be for the next research project on which you plan to serve as lead or sole PI or for an as-yet-unfunded project for which you plan to prepare a proposal for support. Although we model the summary style and review criteria after the NSF style and criteria for THIS exercise, you do not need to prepare the project summary as a proposal to NSF. The exercise will be significantly generic to help you improve your project proposal for submission to any funding agency. Any geoscience disciplinary OR education topic is appropriate for this session. However, a project for the NSF CAREER program is not appropriate for this session. If you plan to submit to CAREER, an alternative can be to prepare a proposal summary focused only on the disciplinary research component of your planned CAREER proposal to gain useful feedback.

The key points are: the proposal or idea has not been funded and you want feedback on it.

For this exercise, we will adhere strictly to the following formatting requirements which are similar to those used by NSF (with a few differences!). You will submit a single file that will include your one-page proposal summary and some additional contextual information (on a second page). The summary MUST be no more than one page. You will upload this single file when you complete the Modified Proposal Summary Upload Form.

All participants in this session (you included) will read several summaries during a limited period of time at the workshop. There is just not time for us to accommodate summaries of extended length or inappropriate format. Therefore, if your summary does not conform to the formatting requirements, it will be REJECTED from the session (not reviewable).

Formatting and Content

Your submission will consist of two pages: (1) the project summary page and (2) BRIEF answers to the contextual questions, which must be supplied on page 2 and uploaded with the one-page summary as a single document.

Page 1: Project summary page

Formatting requirements for the project summary are:

  • The summary text, including title and author, must fit on one page.
  • Margins are 2.54 cm on all sides.
  • Font MUST BE Times Roman 11 or Arial 10.
  • The title and your name must be listed at the top of the single project summary page on separate lines (first line = project title in bold; next line = your name. Double space (skip a line) before starting the main text of the summary).

The summary should be a self-contained description of the activity that would result if the proposal were funded. It must clearly address (within the one-page summary) the following two review criteria in separate sections with headings: (1) the intellectual merit of the proposed activity; and (2) the broader impacts resulting from the proposed activity. (These are NSF's review criteria and they are described below.) It should be informative to other persons working in the same or related fields. Proposals that do not separately address both merit review criteria within the one page Project Summary will be returned without review. (This paragraph is modified for the purpose of this activity from the NSF Grant Proposal Guidelines.)

A good summary makes it very easy for reviewers to comprehend and evaluate your proposed project according to the review criteria (listed below). In addition, for our purposes, the modified proposal summary should address the following questions, which will help the reader to understand and evaluate your project. It is necessary for you to write a synthesized statement that includes answers to these questions as well as addressing the review criteria. It is not appropriate (and past participants have found it unhelpful, even annoying) to submit a list of answers to these questions. A list of answers is not a summary and, as such, will not be reviewed.

  • What is the goal of your project? OR What is the hypothesis that you propose to test in this project?
  • How does this project fit within the sequence or continuum of your research efforts leading to a solution or understanding of a broader problem? (What is the 'big picture'?)
  • Why is this idea important?
  • What data or information do you have now that demonstrates the successful potential for this project OR what data or information do you need?
  • How will you implement your plan? (What do you propose to do?)

Page 2: Contextual Questions

On page 2, provide the title and your name listed again at the top and then BRIEF answers to the following contextual questions. Please do supply answers to these questions in numbered list format.

  1. List the foundation or agency and program to which you anticipate submitting this idea, if known.
  2. What is the approximate duration (1, 2, 3, or 4 years)?
  3. What is your best ball-park estimate of the total cost (e.g., less than $10,000, approximately 50K, approximately 150K, more than 150k, more than 500K)?
  4. Will you have collaborators? If so, what are their roles?
  5. Is there other important contextual information that reviewers should know? (< 3 sentences)

NSF review criteria (modified from the NSF Grant Proposal Guide)

The two merit review criteria are listed below. The criteria include considerations that help define them. These considerations are suggestions, and not all will apply to any given proposal. While proposers must address both merit review criteria, reviewers will be asked to address only those considerations that are relevant to the proposal being considered and for which they are qualified to make judgments.

What is the intellectual merit of the proposed activity?

How important is the proposed activity to advancing knowledge and understanding within its own field or across different fields? How well qualified is the proposer (individual or team) to conduct the project? (If appropriate, the reviewer will comment on the quality of prior work.) To what extent does the proposed activity suggest and explore creative, original, or potentially transformative concepts? How well conceived and organized is the proposed activity? Is there sufficient access to resources?

What are the broader impacts of the proposed activity?

How well does the activity advance discovery and understanding while promoting teaching, training, and learning? How well does the proposed activity broaden the participation of underrepresented groups (e.g., gender, ethnicity, disability, geographic, etc.)? To what extent will it enhance the infrastructure for research and education, such as facilities, instrumentation, networks, and partnerships? Will the results be disseminated broadly to enhance scientific and technological understanding? What may be the benefits of the proposed activity to society?

Note: We are purposefully omitting the review criteria related to mentoring post doctoral researchers. See the NSF Grant Proposal Guide for details.