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Tips for preparing your CAREER proposal

 The deadline for CAREER proposal submissions is fast approaching. Here are some tips from IOS program officers on preparing your proposal:

1.  Panel Review: Although there is a separate solicitation for CAREER proposals, most clusters in IOS review these proposals at disciplinary panels that also consider full proposals submitted through the core IOS solicitation. Thus, you can expect your reviewers to be familiar with the research area in general, and in many cases with the specific conceptual and technical approaches discussed in your proposal.

2.  Intellectual Merit: The same criteria apply for CAREER proposals and regular full proposal submissions (http://www.nsf.gov/bfa/dias/policy/merit_review/overview.pdf). Whether the work is hypothesis-driven or discovery-based, a clearly articulated conceptual framework should be in place, with the aims thematically linked but not tightly dependent on each another. The work proposed should fit the five-year duration required by the program. The goal is to make it clear to the readers that significant biological questions are being addressed through well designed experimental approaches. Show, don’t tell: reviewers tend to react poorly when the text explicitly announces that the work, for example, is novel, important, or potentially transformative. Rather, it is best to leave it to the reviewers to reach conclusions about the merits of the project. Preliminary data, though not required, should be chosen and explained carefully, with the intent of providing the key observations motivating the project and proof-of-principle for difficult or risky experimental approaches.

3. Broader Impacts: These are key to the success of the proposal. Many CAREER proposals are not funded because the educational and outreach component is viewed by reviewers as being insufficient. A common criticism declares the broader impacts as fine for a regular submission but not for a CAREER proposal. In addition, these activities should resonate with the research being proposed. We ask reviewers to look for real integration of research and education/outreach efforts, with innovative approaches that go considerably beyond in creativity and extent what is expected for the broader impacts in a regular proposal.

4. Department Chair’s Letter: These are reviewed carefully by the panel and often factor into rating decisions. It is helpful for the letter to convey the department’s strong commitment to the success of the project. Specific departmental contributions (time, space, equipment, etc.) are preferable to general praise for the PI.

For more information on preparing and submitting your CAREER proposal, contact the cognizant program officer.