Thursday, October 06, 2005

My embarrassing CAREER story

Here's a lovely story to prove to y'all that people with PhDs are occasionally idiotic, too. I wrote a CAREER proposal. Had it all ready to go. Clicked the "allow SRO access" button in Fastlane and everything. Then things went horribly wrong.

But let me back up for a moment. The CAREER proposal (for me) was due on a Wednesday. I had been invited to a planning workshop for a funding agency on Tuesday and Wednesday, so I carefully planned my time so that the proposal would be finished by Monday afternoon (since, as you all know, I almost never work past 4:30). This is how I manage to work only 40 hours a week and to keep my life sane. By planning ahead. So Monday afternoon I clicked the "allow SRO access" button, and thought I was finished.

Then, on Tuesday during the workshop in another city, my cell phone rings. It's Mary (name changed to protect the guilty) from my university's SRO. She tells me I can't list another professor as senior personnel on a CAREER proposal. Okay, so maybe I should have read the program announcement a little more closely. So I tell her to take him off. That's okay, right? He knows he can't be a PI, and he won't mind having his name disappear as long as he gets some money if the grant is awarded. Plus, this is the CAREER award, people! My odds of being funded are approximately one in a gajillion. Crisis averted, right?

Later that day, my cell phone rings again. It's Mary from SRO. My font size is too small. Okay, so maybe I should have read the program announcement a little more carefully. It is pushing the page limit as it is, and an increase in font size will require some cutting. Okay, don't panic, I tell myself. I can leave the workshop, go back to my office, edit the proposal down to size and still get it in by the deadline. I leave the workshop at 7 pm, get back to my office at around 9, to find that the air conditioning in the building is broken. My office is 85 degrees. I increase the font size from 10 to 12. The proposal goes from 15 to 22 pages. I must now cut one third of my proposal away. By 10 pm I realize that this is hopeless. I'm hot and tired, and I have to leave the house at the crack of dawn Wednesday morning to return to my workshop. I decide to retreat and live to fight another day. I can submit the same proposal (without the educational component, which will allow me to meet the page limit) to the unsolicited RFP in my NSF section (which is due in October). That way my "senior personnel" can be the co-PI that he deserves to be. I leave a voice mail for Mary at ORSP telling her to scuttle the whole thing.

I e-mail by senior person and explain what happen and apologize for putting him through weeks of editing for nothing. He is older and wiser and writes back that Mary has her head up her ass, and NSF accepts 10-point font all the time. I am embarrassed, but I soothe my ego by thinking that the unsolicited section has a better funding rate (10%) than the CAREER award (like 0.000001%) and is more fair to my collaborator.

Last week I got a newsletter from one of my professional organizations informing me that the CAREER program in my area got about 40 proposals and expects to fund 15-20% of them. Mary in SRO, how I curse thee!

So today I am re-opening that sealed document, the proposal I haven't looked at since July, to edit it for submission to the unsolicited program. Sigh. I am an idiot.


Blogger Joe Powel said...

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8:52 AM  

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