Research and develop non-research portions of a center grant proposal
The Research Development group (RD) in any organization is mainly tasked with helping scientists and scientific groups attain their research goals by attracting funding and increasing institutional competitiveness.
University-wide RD groups are focused on programs and funding efforts across the institution, while department-specific or school/college-level RD groups at a university will often engage in developing programs on a smaller scale. In addition to helping junior faculty find and obtain their first grant, as well as supporting funding efforts such as writing workshops, department-specific RD groups are also involved in helping faculty or research centers apply for large grants. The types of grants that are considered “large” varies from institution to institution, and may be defined by the potential award size (e.g., >$1M per year in direct costs) or the complexity of the proposal (e.g., the proposal requires multiple components like cores and research projects).
When RD participates in the development of a large grant, they will often provide strategic advice and hands-on support to writing and editing portions of the proposal. This job simulation focuses on the writing aspect of supporting proposal development.
The Large Grant Proposal Development Process
RD groups may become involved in development of a large grant proposal in several ways. In many cases, a PI who has already identified a funding opportunity reaches out to RD for support. Alternatively, an individual such as the Vice Chancellor of Research may contact RD and ask them to find and coordinate a research group that would be competitive for a particular funding opportunity. If RD is called in to help early in the proposal development process, the process may look like this:
You are an intern of Washington University in St. Louis’s School of Engineering and Applied Science Research Development and Administration group.
Lay the foundation for non-research portions of a center grant proposal. This job simulation focuses on step 4b – technical writing and consulting.
The Institute for Materials Science & Engineering (IMSE) has reached out to your group for assistance in preparing a center grant preliminary proposal for the following RFA:
IMSE has no external funding. Most projects and programs have been funded through internal funding. However, the center has decided to obtain additional funding to be able to offer a new interdisciplinary PhD program as well as seed grants to member faculty. The seed grants will help research teams obtain preliminary data needed to apply for their own externally funded research grants.
You are tasked with laying the groundwork to develop the the following sections of the grant preliminary proposal:
Project Summary. An overview of the center’s intellectual merit and broader impacts of proposed activities such as research, education/outreach, shared facilities, and collaborations. 1 page maximum.
Education, human resource development, and diversity strategic plan. A description of the center’s impact on education and the development of a competitive scientific workforce. Detail a few examples of educational, professional development and outreach activities to students, faculty, industrial collaborators, and the public. 3 pages maximum
Task 1: Summarize the center’s capabilities and shared core facilities
For the Project Summary (in 1 paragraph), summarize the center overall, including highlights of what makes the core facilities, instrumentation and equipment at the center or the university suited for the grant proposal.
Your goal is to convince reviewers that this center has the right facilities, location, and human resources to meet the proposal and RFA goals. Check recent publicity statements and core facility web pages to identify these parts. Refer to page 8 in this funded NSF proposal for an example of a Project Summary.
Task 2: Summarize the center’s scientific focus
Using the IMSE’s website, pick out the center’s areas of scientific focus and focus in the community at large. Write one short paragraph about the center’s focus areas for the grant – this will be the basis for describing the selection criteria for the seed grants. Remember this is essentially a pitch for the funding institution to convince them that this grant is worthwhile.
Your RD mentor/supervisor would review your summaries and discuss the content with the PI on the grant before including them in the grant proposal document.
Task 3: (Advanced) Identify the center’s broader impact talking points to write the section, Education, human resource development, and diversity strategic plan.
Research existing programs and come up with new ideas for programs that could be incorporated into the 6 year goals for the center’s impact on the scientific community/industry/public. Think about plans for various audiences, including K-12 outreach, undergraduate students, graduate students, postdocs, faculty, and the general public.
Your RD mentor/supervisor would review your talking points, then discuss the existing programs to be highlighted and ideas of new programs during a meeting with the PI to define what will be featured in the grant.
After you have generated 3 pages on a plan, summarize these activities in a paragraph to be included in the Project Summary.
Grant proposals must be written succinctly and clearly. Limit extraneous detail, but include enough information where needed to meet the goals of each section. Use the links in the general resources section to help guide you in terms of tone.
For Tasks 1 & 2, create single paragraph summaries for each section of the grant that will be included in the Project Summary. Remember: A Project Summary for NSF proposals are one page in length. Include the following:
- Title of the section
- Major selling point in the first sentence
- Pictures, graphs, or diagrams to help “sell” your section as needed. No html links.
For Task 3, keep the Education, human resource development, and diversity strategic plan to 3 pages max.
This type of deliverable could be used as a basis for preparing the preliminary proposal as well as beginning to put together the full grant proposal, once the preliminary proposal has been approved.
Skills used to perform this task:
Skills used in the Research Development field:
Additional tasks in Research Development:
A professional in the field of Research Development may also perform these tasks:
Learn more about Research Development and from the National Organization of Research Development Professionals – NORDP.
Simulation author – Linet Mera, PhD
Simulation vetted by RD professionals in St. Louis