Sunday, January 13, 2008

NSF-related stuff

Although it might seem like it, I haven't really been on vacation -- just a vacation from blogging. One thing I was doing was sending in an NSF preliminary proposal for CDI (Cyber-Enabled Discovery and Innovation -- an unwieldy name I never remember without looking up), with that inspiring January 8 deadline. I was also doing minimal work on an Expeditions pre-proposal, thanks to enterprising colleagues who will probably seek payback if we get to submit a full proposal.

Does anyone have an opinion on this whole letters of intent/pre-proposal system for these new grants? Letters of intent I understand -- it's good to know how many people intend to apply for a new grant. But pre-proposals? Does this minimize the work for anyone? Sure, a 6 page pre-proposal is somewhat easier than a full proposal, but there's still a high overhead in just getting something off the ground (and getting it in the Fastlane system). And the tradeoff is now you may have to do a preliminary and full proposal, and there have to be 2 panels (1 for pre-proposals). I'd be happy if I thought someone from NSF had done the math and found that this approach would really save time and effort on our (the researcher) side and the NSF side, but I somehow think this was inspired some bureaucratic incentive I wouldn't want to imagine. I'd be happy to be proven wrong, if anyone has inside information.

So while at this point I'm sick of proposals, and would love to spend time actually doing research instead of writing to the NSF about research I'll happily do if they fund me, I see a slew of proposal deadlines coming up that I might end up applying to, and are certainly worth mentioning to the blog audience. Rather that point to individual calls, here's the link to the CISE list:

1. Theoretical Foundations. March 19 deadline. Looks standard. SING is still there. Nice to see that this time PIs can apply on two grants -- last time I applied, it was just one.
2. CyberTrust. March 24 deadline. I've never applied to this, but I hear many crypto/complexity people have had success.
3. NeTS. March 25 deadline. That's networking, for you theory folk. It looked like they've really revamped this call, completely changing all of the subareas. I'd say the subareas look more theory-friendly, with areas like Network Ecosystems and Exploratory Networking. But theory-friendliness seems to be at the whim of the panel, in my experience. (Sometimes that's good, sometimes that's bad.)
4. Assembling the Tree of Life. March 14 deadline. Not my kind of stuff, but I do know some theorists have received funding for algorithmic work on Tree of Life problems.
5. Human and Social Dynamics. February 19 deadline. Still plenty of time.

Sigh. So many calls, thankfully, not enough time to do them all. I wonder what's with the tightly grouped deadlines.


Anonymous said...

Does this minimize the work for anyone? ... I'd be happy to be proven wrong, if anyone has inside information.

I have no inside information, but I'd guess this will be a lot easier for the weaker candidates, and only slightly harder for the NSF and the stronger candidates. By far the biggest cost is requiring two panels, but I think that's outweighed by the savings in time spent writing fruitless proposals.

When I've served on panels, there have been many proposals that could easily have been rejected based on a 6-page pre-proposal. I'd estimate that for a third of them, not one person on the panel would seriously consider funding them (given the funding levels available), and that one could even eliminate half of them without too much controversy.

I suspect this will be especially beneficial for Expeditions. There are said to be a couple of big proposals involving lots of famous people, and surely they will be funded (their biggest competition will be each other). However, I'd guess that there are a lot of second-tier universities full of ambitious researchers, where the deans will put a lot of pressure on the departments to try to get some of this money. If they write a great proposal, then they ought to be funded, but I'd bet there will be quite a few not so great proposals. It will save the whole field a lot of time if most of them never reach the stage of needing a full proposal.

Anonymous said...

I wonder what's with the tightly grouped deadlines.

I think I can guess. Many of these deadlines could not be announced until the federal budget was approved which didn't happen until the week of December 17th. Then there is the 90 days required between the time of the announcement and the deadline. Everyone also wants enough time before the summer to schedule the panels so we end up with the tight grouping.