Five Tips for Writing a Winning Grant Proposal

Posted on January 18, 2016

The deadline for Major Research Instrumentation (MRI) grant proposals to the National Science Foundation was last week. If you submitted a proposal, we wish you luck. If you didn’t, there’s always next time. Either way, we wanted to share some helpful hints gathered from customers who have won grant funding in the past. Check out these pointers and download our white paper, Best Practices for Writing a Successful NSF MRI Grant Proposal, for more recommendations for your future grant proposals.

Cast a Vision
You’re excited about the project you’re proposing, correct? The most important thing is to make sure that excitement comes through in your grant proposal. If you aren’t excited, and if you can’t make the grant reviewers excited, how do expect to secure funding? To make your proposal exciting, make sure the science you’re proposing is exciting. Good science makes for good grant proposals. Make it compelling.

Paint the Big Picture
The NSF exists to fund projects that will have a global impact, so you literally need to consider the whole world when you’re writing your grant proposal. Who will benefit from the research projects being conducted on your cluster? How will that research affect the world? Make sure you talk about how many people will benefit from your cluster as well – including the other researchers and students who be using it.

Give It a Great Name
What’s in a name? Everything! And that goes for your grant proposal as well. You need to spend some time coming up with a suitable name for your proposed cluster. If your cluster is for a university, think about naming the cluster after the school mascot. For example, if your cluster is for the University of Notre Dame, consider naming your cluster Leprechaun. Don’t let the name dropping end there. List the number of research projects that are waiting to use your cluster, starting with the most prestigious and working your way down from there.

Determine How Much Funding to Request
Never ask for more funding than is required. You should ask your HPC vendor for the amount of funding that is needed to purchase your new HPC cluster. Nothing more, nothing less. You should also consider limiting your grant proposal to an amount of less than $1 million. Proposals that exceed $1 million face increased competition from the many applications for expensive lab equipment.

Don’t Forget to Share
The NSF requires that you share your cluster resources, so you might say that shared use of your cluster is vital to the success of your proposal. Make sure you talk to researchers on your campus and at neighboring institutions to build a list of potential users for your cluster. Invite graduate and undergraduate students to use it as well.

Download your copy of our white paper, Best Practices for Writing a Successful NSF MRI Grant Proposal, for more recommendations for your future grant proposals.

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