Thursday, September 06, 2007

Repost: Picking the research to match the grant opportunity

Note: I posted this on Sunday, but it quickly got buried and I'd love more feedback. Thanks!

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 It would involve some field work in Midwest next summer, at a site with a rich historical (but unpublished) dataset.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?

16 comments:

Anonymous said...

I think that a large part of this decision may rest on time/timing. While Option 1 will take a lot of time now, it may take less time later in terms of fieldwork since it's local. On the other hand, Option 2 will be easy to write up now, but you will have to spend time away in the field next summer. My first thought would be to go for Option 2 since overall it may be easier (and it sounds like your life may be as nutty as a person can handle). BUT, the more I think about it, Option 2 may have the most advantages (as you outline) and may set you up better for future research. Also, and this may not apply, but a few years ago I applied for an internal grant for about the same amount and the primary reason that I didn't get it was that it was for research that would be carried out in a far away location and involve collaborators not associated w/the university. W/option 2, if you could use an undergraduate to check on the equipment etc. all the better....

A Female Scientist said...

Hi ScienceWoman,

If you have enough time (hmm..not sure), the best option would be 1. Since you just started as a new faculty this might open a new road.

Otherwise, option 2 looks easier and great as well because publications are what count for tenure ?

Good Luck !

ScienceMama said...

I think for an internal grant, especially one that is so small, it might be better to write the grant proposal to set up your field site near Mystery City. I think that Mystery U should be happy to fund some work to get you set up in the area, and that MU would see getting your field site set up as progress (while an external funding source might want to see a more tangible benefit (i.e. paper) come out of their funding). Write up the local proposal for MU, and use your sure-thing publication for an external funding agency. Just my $0.02.

Schlupp said...

Considering that Minnow's teething, I'd go for 2. You've got enough to do right now.

PhD Mom said...

I would go for option 1. Usually they want to see high impact, exciting ideas so a new area with local benefits would be ideal. Besides do you want to do low impact, but well-received work? Or the most exciting stuff that you can?

Anonymous said...

SORRY TYPING WHILE EATING...MEANT TO SAY:

I think that a large part of this decision may rest on time/timing. While Option 1 will take a lot of time now, it may take less time later in terms of fieldwork since it's local. On the other hand, Option 2 will be easy to write up now, but you will have to spend time away in the field next summer. My first thought would be to go for Option 2 since overall it may be easier right now (and it sounds like your life may be as nutty as a person can handle). BUT, the more I think about it, Option 1 may have the most advantages (as you outline) and may set you up better for future research. Also, and this may not apply, but a few years ago I applied for an internal grant for about the same amount and the primary reason that I didn't get it was that it was for research that would be carried out in a far away location and involve collaborators not associated w/the university. W/option 1, if you could use an undergraduate to check on the equipment etc. all the better....

EcoGeoFemme said...

Do you have any idea of the relative weight of papers vs. funding at tenure time?

Presumably you're going to want to develop a research program locally and you likely don't have much preliminary data to start with. It seems like it would be a little short sighted to go for the easy paper instead of setting yourself up as best as you can for bigger money. Then you can fund students who will write many more papers. Unless you feel like papers are more important for tenure and you don't think you'll have enough, like if your main research is really slow.

Anonymous said...

Maybe this is a good opportunity to seek out a faculty mentor and ask them this question. They will be able to give advice based on department environment, prior tenure decisions etc.

Em

ScienceWoman said...

Thank you all for your comments. (Keep 'em coming). You're right - it depends on whether I can handle fleshing out a new idea/field area now or whether that's just impossible given everything else I'm doing.

To the last anonymous: Yes, I was just thinking that too. I'm supposed to be getting a formal departmental mentor, but nothing's happened yet. So I might just go talk to someone informally.

DancingFish said...

I would say Option 1 because of the similar reasons Ecogeofemme cited. Setting yourself up for bigger money and ultimately more papers anyways from the research program as a whole.
It is great that you already have decisions like this to make in terms of breadth of reseach and options!

Female Science Professor said...

You probably have to have preliminary results before writing a big proposal, and you probably have to write some big proposals in your new job. Small university-sponsored grants are best used to fund pilot research that will turn into something larger (NSF grant, student theses, interesting papers).

hypatia said...

At my university, they are more likely to fund an internal request if you can show how it leads to obtaining external funding.

Don't wait to be assigned a formal mentor - they told me the same thing and it never ever happened. Seek people out to mentor you. If possible seek a variety of people out. (The more people who are invested in your success in one way or another, the better - I have one person I am most comfortable with and I actively seek a different person for teaching issues and a third for advising issues and a fourth for stats.... it's a strategy so that people in your dept. know what you do and you don't seem totally needy to any one of them.).

Drugmonkey said...

ditto FSP. this is the time to think about investment in the future, meaning future funding, meaning easy (or easier, which local sounds) data streams generated with available talent. such as local students, for example.

if your field does not have scooping problems, I'd say put the quick/sure paper generator off for now. assuming, that is, it will be there when you start getting nervous about pub rate pre-tenure decision.

Jill Monroe said...

I would say go with Option 2, primarily because of something you said - project you've had on the back burner. That makes me think you've been thinking about this off and on for years.

Based on my own scientific observation (of myself) this generally means my mind won't allow me to move forward onto something new until I sew that up OR that my subconscious finally thinks I'm ready to tackle that back burner project.

I'm like that with my writing. Some stories complete themselves in months. Others cook on that back burner for years until I'm ready...

Good luck!

Zuska said...

I agree with Female Science Professor. Keep your long-term goals in mind. Getting the first big NIH/NSF or similar grant is tough. You'll want to have preliminary data. Go with option one, and make sure your proposal is designed to generate that data. It doesn't have to generate a paper, just something you can base a bigger grant proposal around. The mini-grant should be viewed as seed money, not money to accomplish an isolated goal (such as option #2). When I was at K-State, there was a similar program in place and I know that the faculty apps that were looked upon most favorably were the ones that were clearly designed as launch pads for a larger proposal-to-be in the future.

eda said...

買煙火,製造浪漫煙火小舖,101煙火,煙火小舖,煙火,仙女棒,沖天炮,勝利之花,甩炮,升空煙火,情趣用品,情趣,衣蝶情趣精品百貨,情趣用品衣蝶,自慰套,飛機杯,充氣娃娃,AV女優,AV,電動按摩棒,按摩棒,G點,調情棒,後庭拉珠棒,跳蛋,變頻跳蛋,有線跳蛋,無線跳蛋,潤滑液,男女穿戴用品,穿戴用品,情趣內衣,性感內衣,情趣跳蛋,角色扮演,情趣角色扮演,丁字褲,情趣內褲,性感內褲,性感吊帶襪,網襪,性感網襪,T字褲,煙火批發,情趣禮品,情趣用品,成人用品,情趣商品,情趣內衣,情趣精品,情趣商品,成人貼圖,衣蝶