A great deal of research gets its “jump-start” by crystallizing its
ideas for products and processes in a research or grant proposal.
Grant writing is a special skill that can be learned and improved.
This week I was invited to join a panel that reviewed proposals. It is
so important for proposal applicant to read the solicitation very
carefully to determine whether they think their idea(s) match the
solicitation and time frame for the grant. The solicitation for
application might be offered in more than one phase, like in a
screening or feasibility for a short time, followed by a follow-on
Phase II. A Phase III can sometime be required for promising
concepts that often would be found with matching grants or awards
from a non-governmental organization.
The proposals we reviewed will commonly be evaluated for
(1) appropriate match to the federal organization mission and
(2) scrutinized via preset and robust criteria
(3) before a technical review.
(4) Then, with the evidence in hand and summarized grant administrators
review and decide from the highest rated proposals.
External reviewers are brought in, meet, and decide the technical
merits of the proposal again recognizing the agency’s mission and
and solicitation’s goals. [For the most part reviewers are not
revealed to applicants.]
Each proposal is reviewed for specific criteria and classified as:
- excellent: outstanding with numerous exceptional attributes
- very good: strong proposal offering many noteworthy merits
- good: strong proposal however containing smaller gaps, deficiencies.
- fair: an offering with one serious deficiency or several gaps that
are not compensated for by strong elements
- poor: a seriously lacking proposal
Each proposal we reviewed used the same outline but varied within
a range in each section. So, for the timeline, for example, some
proposals will use a Gannt chart, some will use a work breakdown
structure, some will use six sigma process map and definition of
KPIVs and KPOVs (key process input and output variables).
Each proposal should address the “Heilmeier commandments” which
1. What will you accomplish (without jargon)
2. what is done now, what are the limits and what is the background
3. what is new, and why should it be successful
Any preliminary supporting information
4. how does it fit the mission and objectives
5. if successful what difference does it make
6. what are the risks and benefits
7. what is the timeline for tasks and opportunity costs if not supported.
The proposal needs a descriptive summary, a budget, a timeline. CVs/
appropriate biographies of the principle investigator, project team and
consultants and advisers.
There is commonly a time deadline for submission and page length
limit that are strictly followed.