A new CAREER Program solicitation has been released. A few changes from previous years appear in the 2022 edition:
- The submission deadline for all Directorates is the 4th Wednesday of July at 5:00 pm local time. This year that is July 27, 2022.
- The purpose of the departmental chair letter has been clarified, emphasizing it serves as a description of how the department will support the goals described in the proposal and should not be construed as a reference letter for the PI.
- CAREER proposals must be prepared and submitted via Research.gov or via Grants.gov and may not be prepared or submitted via FastLane.
General Advice on Preparing a CAREER 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 to our programs, including the core programs, Plant-Biotic Interactions, and Plant Genome Research Program (PGRP). 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. However, to ensure the appropriate expertise is consulted during the review, be sure to suggest three to five reviewers, being careful not to include those are in conflict with the proposal.
2. Intellectual Merit: The same review criteria apply for CAREER and regular full proposal submissions. 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, for example, a proposal explicitly states that the work, 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. When preliminary data is lacking, couching the proposal in the literature can also support the project’s feasibility.
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 raised in both reviews and panel is that “the broader impacts are 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 of what is expected for the broader impacts in a regular proposal.
4. Department Chair’s Letter: This is reviewed carefully by the panel and often factors into ranking decisions. The letter should emphasize the department’s commitment to the success of the research, educational and outreach efforts described in the proposal. It should also convey how the department will facilitate the PI’s growth as a scientist and educator. Specific departmental contributions (time, mentoring the PI, space, equipment, etc.) should be described. The letter should not come across as a letter of reference for the PI. The 2022 solicitation states (in bold): Note that the Department Letter should not be construed as a Letter of Support for the PI and should address only the items listed above (i.e., in the solicitation).
For more advice on preparing and submitting your CAREER proposal, feel free to contact a program director in the IOS program that will be carrying out the review. We strongly encourage you do this by initiating that contact early in the process with an email containing a one-to-two-page summary of the proposal.
There is also an NSF 101 article and you can register for upcoming program wide Webinars: