6/14/2021 Virtual Office Hours Recap – How to Write a Great Proposal

The Division of Environmental Biology (DEB) held its latest Virtual Office Hour on June 14, 2021. Program Officers provided insight on how to write a great proposal. Representatives from each of the four DEB core programs were available for questions.  We host these office hours from 1-2 pm Eastern Time on the 2nd Monday of every month. Each session has a designated theme, but attendees are welcome to ask about other NSF-related topics.

The presentation and other documents are available here:

Slides (PDF)

PAPPG 20-1

If you were unable to attend, here are a few of the questions asked during the Q & A section. Many of the questions we received were duplicates from past virtual office hours, so we encourage you to check out our Office Hour page, where we have recaps on a variety of topics:

Q: How do you know if the ‘big idea’ is a good idea?  What makes a good idea for a proposal?  Does it have to be one of the Big Questions in Biology, e.g., classic things like speciation mechanism, etc.?

A: The idea does not have to be one of the Big Questions but it should be something that would resonate well with people in the field. It could be an important question for your specific group, for instance.  Look at what’s been awarded using the NSF Awards Search and that will be a good way of getting a sense of this.

Q: What is the best way to get feedback on a proposal summary from a Program Officer? What kinds of feedback are appropriate/could be expected? For example, if they think a question is exciting or if methods are feasible.

A: When you send us a 1-2 pager, we can provide general advice about which program might be the best fit for your idea. We also look for red flags such as whether the project is out of scope for NSF mission (e.g. primarily human health). Depending on your project we may also help figure out a specific solicitation, if applicable.

Q: I’ve gotten reviews that vary widely about reviewers’ preferred introduction styles. I prefer to start with an overall impact statement, but is it better to start with a repeat of the overview, or background material?

A: It is more important to hook the reviewer, so we advise against a “paper style” introduction, instead paint a picture of the gap in knowledge and how your research is going to fill the gap.

Please reach out to a Program Officer if you have any questions about the proposal submission and review process in DEB programs. NSF has suggested 5 tips on working with Program Officers as part of the NSF 101 series on our Science Matters blog.

Check out the upcoming office hour topics below and be sure to check back here or on the NSF Events Page for information on how to register. We’re taking July off but will be back on August 9th to talk about the different funding opportunities available in the Proposal & Award Policies & Procedures Guide (PAPPG) including EAGERs, RAPIDs, and workshops.

Upcoming Office Hours and Topics:

July: No Office Hour. See you in August!

August 9: PAPPG Funding Opportunities: EAGER, RAPID, workshop, etc.

September 13: BIO Postdoc Fellowship Program

October 18: Intro to DEB and the DEB Core Program Solicitation

November 8: Updates on Dimensions of Biodiversity Research

December 13: How to Write a Great Annual Report and Other Post Award Actions