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Biodiversity Informatics Training Curriculum: Proposal-writing Class, part 1

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This is an element of the Biodiversity Informatics Training Curriculum aimed at giving you some guidance on preparing effective proposals for funding. This has little to do with biodiversity informatics —or science— at all. It's simply about how to get enough funding in the door to be able to do the science that you want to do. Like it or not, we have to deal with proposals and requesting funding from institutions. I'm going to try to keep this module general so that it's applicable to many different types of proposals and funding. There are three broad categories. <u>Fellowships and scholarships</u> These are proposals that request funding to support studies for an individual. In many cases, we're talking about <u>research support</u>. This is funding to support a particular study. And, finally, is <u>institutional support</u>, which is biggest in scale. This is funding to support a broad group or an institution. It will often serve as an umbrella for many projects. So, you can think of those three types of proposals in general. Funding sources will also be varied. Just to give you the spectrum and some examples... In many cases, you'll be looking some national source; a National Science Foundation of whichever country you're located in. There are international sources. For example, very specific to biodiversity, there are funding opportunities from the Global Biodiversity Informatics Facility. And, many of you will have access to international aid agencies as well. Finally, there are private foundations. I'll give you two examples. The JRS Biodiversity Foundation is actually the foundation that's funding this project which is developing this curriculum. On a different front, the MacArthur Foundation funds quite a bit of work in conservation worldwide. This list is not exhaustive. It's intended to get you thinking on different scales and scopes of funding. The examples I've given are only that. They're examples. There are many more sources that could be identified. I'm going to give you a series of suggestions. First, how to prepare for your proposal. Then, how to assemble your proposal. A very important first step is to find and very carefully read the request or call for proposals. Whatever it's called that states the exact dimensions of the program to which you're applying. You need to seek the primary, original, official announcement. Avoid things that interpret or compact this information. Read it very carefully multiple times. If you don't, you stand the risk of wasting your own time because you will find yourself eliminated from competition because you missed some element of the proposal or you asked for something that that institution is not willing to fund. Essentially, don't try to fit a round peg in a square hole. If the institution is looking for X, don't try to sell them Y. You will usually not be successful. If you have questions at the end of the request for proposals read, don't be afraid to email or phone the official in charge of the program. It's okay to ask, 'do you really want this?' Or, 'how do I do that?' That can very valuable in avoiding the mistakes that waste your time. Here's a list of key details that you need to look for in the request for proposals. Who is eligible to apply? What format should the proposal take? How long is the text? Is it pages? Is it words? What's the limit on how long you can send something? What is the duration of the project? Is it one-year funding? Or can it go five years? What are the budget dimensions? What elements can be included in the budget? For example, are studentships able to be included? Are salaries? Can equipment be purchased? All sorts of details like that. And perhaps most important, what are the deadlines? When do you have to be ready to turn in your proposal? I'm going to give you some examples. These are just funding sources, their requests for proposals, and how they work. This is not intended as a guide to you for these programs. Rather, it's just what to look for. Here's the MacArthur Foundation which frequently is looking for proposals from across the tropical world. They have a very interactive website. "Learn about what we fund." They say they make grants in a number of fields. They've developed a peculiar set of cycles which we'll see more of in a moment. They have current calls for proposals on housing matters. But then "accepting inquiries", they have this "conservation and sustainable development." That's the category that most biodiversity-related projects are funded under with the MacArthur Foundation. MacArthur has a rolling set of geographic foci. At this moment, the geographical focus is on three regions: the Great Lakes of east-central Africa, the greater Mekong in southeast Asia, and watersheds of the Andes. Again, I'm not giving you a guide to MacArthur funding, I'm just helping you to look for these key details. They say they'll focus on four issues. So, they're particularly interested in climate change mitigation and adaptation, environmental and social considerations in commodities markets, and over-exploitation and illegal use of marine fisheries. So, again, the idea is - learn to look for these details. If you come in to this program with something focused on deforestation, this funding agency may not be so interested in that if it doesn't fit within these categories. More on MacArthur Foundation... This is a clip from their webpage. ... 3-year recurring cycle... ...letters of inquiry submitted by the below deadlines... Down here you see that the deadlines for three of the regions are by invitation only. But, for the great lakes of Africa: April 5, 2013. These are the details that we need to seek out so that we're certain that we understand how this particular program works. Here's their conservation and sustainable development program. They name some areas where they're working. Notice that it's not just the regions that I just listed, but also the Caribbean, Madagascar, and Melanesia. Again, you need to read the details and make sure you understand them. Let's go to a very different funding agency: the U.S. National Science Foundation. These are often big grants. Maybe you won't be using National Science Foundation funding, but I want to give you an example of the request for proposals. These are very carefully formatted. You can see this is the newest solicitation that replaces an old one. We have our deadlines. The 2013 deadline is 1 April. After that, the first Monday of April. It tells you the changes that have been made for proposals to this program. It goes into details. For example, a data management plan has to be provided. Again, I'm just trying to give you the idea of looking at these details and not missing something that's required. Award information. Here we get to the budget for these same grants. They plan to give 10-15 grants and a total amount of $15-20 million pending availability of funds. So, they don't have to give that amount of money, but they may. In this first category, the awards will be 1-2 years in duration; but, in the second category, awards can go up to five years in duration. These are those details that you should be looking for. Eligibility information - who can apply: universities, nonprofits, independent museums. You want to make sure that you're on that list. Don't fit a square peg in a round hole or you'll end up wasting your time. Here is a very different opportunity. This a small funding opportunity at the University of Kansas. This is an opportunity for seed grants. Again, we need to scan through. 'Research endeavors that bring together the sciences, arts, and humanities.' So, you'd better be thinking about how you can cross those boundaries. The 'outcome of a seed grant should be the development and submission of a substantive research grant proposal.' You'll need to tell about your plans to generate that sort of proposal. Again, read all these details. Here's more information. 'Up to $45,000 available for one or more awards.' Right there, you can see a strategy decision. You can ask for the $45,000. Or, you might ask for $15,000 and think that way the agency can fund three grants. You have to decide, and maybe even consult with the program officer, what's the best strategy. All funds have to be spent by that date. So, in your timeline, you have to make sure that coincides with the end date. And, 'to be considered, applications must include a pre-proposal and a full proposal.' These are those details. I'm not going to go into all the details, but notice: project cover page, the abstract, the description... Don't cruise by these things. These are important. And, if you ignore them, the people who will be judging your proposal will get upset at you.

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Duration: 13 minutes and 4 seconds
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Language: English
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Posted by: townpeterson on Jul 5, 2016

In English. Segment 1 of a 3-part class on writing effective proposals for funding.

Town Peterson, University of Kansas

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