A special workshop was held at the Innovations conference in Maryland that focused on strategies and best practices for creating a competitive NSF grant proposal. Workshop attendees first heard a detailed presentation from National Science Foundation program officer Celeste Carter on the many program opportunities for Advanced Technological Education (ATE) grants. Next, a panel of five current ATE center principal investigators answered questions and provided their perspectives and insights into the proposal process. The workshop session ended with a “mock review” of an actual ATE grant proposal, which featured a group discussion that helped illustrate for attendees several avoidable proposal mistakes. It was an invaluable experience for everyone in the room.
Here are a few other highlights from the workshop:
- When developing your grant idea, be sure no one else in the ATE community is already pursuing the same idea. The NSF doesn’t want to fund the re-invention of the wheel. If you do find duplication, you should coordinate your efforts with that other grantee.
- Connections are important. Be clear in your proposal about strong relationships you have to businesses, to other community colleges in your area, and to stakeholders within your own institution.
- Don’t be too ambitious with your first proposal. Focus on the area of greatest need and be realistic about what your grant can deliver. You can’t do everything. The NSF won’t expect you to do everything.
- Metrics are essential in your proposal. Your grant goals must be measurable and attainable. Clearly cite evidence when making a statement or claim.
- Business and industry demand will form a big part of how you explain the need your grant will seek to fill. Be sure to include workforce figures (such as Bureau of Labor Statistics or data from your local economic development board) and industry feedback (such as survey results from local businesses or summaries of your business meetings) in your proposal.
- Read the NSF solicitation multiple times to make sure you understand it. Take notes.
- You can’t start too soon. In addition to writing the proposal description, there are many other supplemental documents that need to be gathered and organized. The NSF does not take late submissions. Because internet outages are always possible, don’t wait until the last minute to submit your proposal.
If you’re considering applying for an ATE grant, there are two ways you can take advantage of orientations similar to the Innovations workshop:
1. A special four-part webinar series is underway now through the CCTA (Centers Collaborative for Technical Assistance) that guides participants through the key elements of a grant proposal. The first two sessions (“Grants and Innovation: A Great Match” and “Grant Proposal Resources, Roadmaps and Timelines”) are available now only as recording, but the next two are open for registration. Click here to register for March 29’s “Developing Stakeholder Partnerships Internally and Externally for Successful Grants” and April 19’s “Final Tips for a Competitive Proposal.” These webinars allow for real-time Q&A sessions.
Please note that these webinars are updates to a similar series of webinars from last year. Participants are encouraged to view those 2017 recordings first.
2. A free convening will be held on Friday, July 21 (8:30am-12:30pm) in Miami, Florida in conjunction with the end of the HI-TEC conference. Learn more about this convening here.