Sunday, September 02, 2007

Picking the research to match the grant opportunity

I've got a couple of small grant opportunities available to me over the next few months. The monies are generally small - not enough to support a student or by major equipment - and the timeframes are generally one year or so. Since I have a decent shot at getting one or more of these grants, I've got to think carefully about exactly what science to match to which RFP. And that's where I could use some help.

There's an internal research grant competition at Mystery U. The maximum funding I can get is about $5000, and there are a couple of key restrictions, I can only pay half to student, and I can only pay half to myself as summer salary. Other than that, they just want to see good research ideas. I have two in mind for this proposal, but I am having a hard time deciding which is a better use of the money.

Option 1: Start something new. Use the 5K as seed money to get some instrumentation in a field site local to Mystery City. Answer some basic question (not sure exactly what yet) about the -ology of the site, but probably not be able to do anything comprehensive enough to warrant a paper. But it gets my foot in the door in the local area, and helps establish that I've got
research ideas that I am pursuing independently. May be able to use results generated from this grant as preliminary data for future (larger) grants or a student thesis project. The proposal would be a bit more effort to write since I'd have to formulate a specific question and I'd need to get some more information about the site (maybe actually visit it).

Option 2: The $5K is just about the right amount of money to fund a project I've had on the back burner for a number of years. It would involve some field work in Midwest next summer, at a site with a rich historical (but unpublished) dataset. The field work combined with mining the historical dataset would be guaranteed to net me a well-received paper in a low-impact journal. But it probably wouldn't lead to anything else at that site or on the specific research topic. On the upside, the proposal would be a cinch to write.

What would you recommend? Why?


Writer Chica said...

My initial reaction is Option 2. Here's why:
1. "project on the back burner": would be good for you to finish this.
2. "guaranteed to net me a paper": that sounds good, add to CV
3. "cinch to write": your plate is a little full right now, do something you are already familiar with and about a site you don't have to go see right now

Questions I have:
1. This is an internal research grant competition. Any indication that there would be preferences as to the location of the research?
2. Are you likely to have more opportunities to start something new or to finish a back burner project?
3. What option would be more satisfying to you right now?

Also, I would look at it as which is a better use of your time, as opposed to better use of money. Minor, but significant distinction.

Good luck!

Capella said...

I would say it depends what else you have going on. You want to have a mix of risk levels and time horizons in your projects. It sounds like Option 2 is safe and quick and probably not career-transforming and then it will be over. If you're currently starting up a number of big projects that won't give major returns for years, but that could become major elements of your career for the next decade, Option 2 is a good way to ensure you will get something concrete done in the not-too-distant future. But if all you have right now is small or low-risk projects left over from your past work, I think it would be more valuable to dig into something new.

It sounds, from your other postings, that you are starting a lot of exciting things right now (but I could be misinterpreting), which probably means large, intimidating projects. Option 2 is something you already have a good handle on, so it would diversify your research investments.

Anonymous said...

Hi Sciencewoman,
Love your blog!!

I think you should write the easier proposal, and then do whatever you want with the $$$.
As long as you accomplish something (i.e. paper) with the $, you're fine.

-another sciencewoman

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