Saturday, September 30, 2006
"The black hole of need" is a phrase that Dr. Morrison used to describe the person who has no idea about what they want to do and wants hand holding through the whole process (or, in the case of students, wants you to do the project or the searching or their homework for them) and why you should not give the appearance of neediness when contacting a program officer to discuss your project.
Chris and I were talking about how the process presented in the workshop today, the formula Dr. Morrison provided, would be useful for all sorts of projects that require organization and communication to non-experts in a field, for instance communicating a dissertation topic. That made me feel good because I think I've gotten to the point where I've been feeling lately that I've reached that point. I can explain my potential dissertation topic in a couple of sentences in non-technical language.
Little known fact about grant application reviewers: reviewers are critically reviewed on their ability to review. This means that there is the expectation that a reviewer will find something wrong with the application. One of the places that reviewers find something wrong is in the section of the narrative of an application that addresses anticipated problems with the research project and how they will be addressed. Another place is in the details or the ability of the author of the application to follow the rules for the application e.g. margin size, font size, length, format, etc. Moral: read the directions! A third place that reviewers like to find fault is in the budget section where the applicant has not adequately justified the items in your budget. Dr. Morrison suggested that we include some budget lines that we donÂt mind being cut in order to allow for the reviewersÂ need to cut something.
This bit threw me off a bit: try to cite contributions of possible reviewersÂ. He said it earlier but those exact words appear in one of Dr. Morrison's slides. The purpose was straightforward, to massage the egos of potential reviewers or to avoid putting them off your project if you donÂt cite their work. Being interested in scholarly communication including the ways it can be operationalized and measured, I immediately wondered about what impact of doing this would have on the citation counts of authors and what weight those citations are given by promotion and tenure committees. (How) are they taken into account by citation counters like ISI? My second thought was about the discussions we had in my Research Ethics class last spring about whether or not citing peopleÂs work in order to curry favor with them was ethically questionable. I read the American Counseling AssociationÂs Code of Ethics recently (my qualitative research class is in the Counseling & Educational Psychology Department) and they have a section that says "Counselors must give appropriate credit to those who have contributed to research" ... does this practice constitute appropriate credit?
Reviewers expect a grant application to include evidence of preliminary results or pilot studies even though they are not typically required to be included (according to application directions).
Tips on titles: write down five or eight different titles for your project and then ask colleagues to select one. According to Dr. Morrison, almost everyone will choose the same title.
This was an excellent workshop in terms of de-mystifying the grant application process and, I fear, in terms of communicating the practical real-world tips for writing successful grants (even though, as you can plainly see, that part of it offended my sensitive, naive belief in ethics).
The first thing reviewers look for in an application are factors about the project such as the title of the project, the interest value of the project, and reader friendliness of the application and factors about the researcher and her institution. Secondarily, reviewers are looking for the significance of the project; the researcher’s approach to the process; the application itself, the environment and resources in which and with which the project will be conducted; the innovation, novelty, and uniqueness of the project and the project budget.
How to write for reviewers:
1. Write as though you were writing for a newspaper, e.g. with a specific audience in mind, using the right words (succinct), attractive, and making the information easy to find.
2. Use simple, declarative sentences.
3. Avoid acronyms and abbreviations.
4. Avoid weak words (e.g. ‘expect’ instead of ‘will try’; if, hope, and believe are words to avoid)
5. Use emphasis (bold, italics, underlines) to draw attention to text but don’t overuse it.
6. Avoid excessively long or short paragraphs.
7. Follow instructions to applicants on format, remember that minimally acceptable does not mean required.
Preparation of the application: On page one of the narrative, whether it’s called executive summary or introduction, or project description, is where the author makes their first impression on the reviewer and therefore the most important page of the application. It is where you make a first, very important impression on the reviewer. He went through the sections of the narrative portions of the application step by step.
Different agencies have different processes for grant application review. For instance, sometimes program review officers are part of the decision making process and other times they are not. There’s a video available on the NIH website of a mock study section application review session at www.csr.nih.gov/Video/Video.asp. It is also helpful to identify your reviewers if it is possible. NIH publishes information about their review panels. Do this in order to find out which reviewers sit on which panels and then write your application with them in mind (including citing their work if possible). Never say no to an invitation to become a reviewer and volunteer to be a reviewer whenever possible. You can also suggest the need for specific scientific expertise to contribute to the review process but shouldn’t suggest specific individuals due to the potential for the appearance of a conflict of interest.
He made the point several times that reviewers are reading grant applications under sub-optimal conditions because they have to and are going to be able to recommend roughly two of every ten applications they review. So it makes sense for the author of the grant application to read the application instructions (the correct and current instructions) very carefully in order to avoid being struck from the list of potentially fundable applications for reasons that don’t have anything to do with the content or research project like too small margin, wrong font, etc. He emphasized the need to make a grant application highly readable, that’s the first thing the reviewer looks for and can influence her reaction to an application before she even gets to the topic.
Saturday, September 23, 2006
I guess the software that you can use to analyze and interpret quantitative data, statistical analysis software like SPSS and SAS and Stata are just more well known and, possibly, more well developed than the software that you can use to analyze and interpret qualitative data like NVivo and ATLASti. Most of them (all of them), have trial versions available to download so I hope to be able to test at least one of them on this class project so I'll keep you posted about my progress and what I learn.
P.S. When I was exploring on the NVivo site, I was reminded of some other software that I learned about last year that, at least if memory serves, may do sort of the same thing (provide a means for categorizing and analyzing data) for a different purpose. It's called something like My Brain. The sales pitch described it as a way to organize your life (thoughts, etc.) using memory mapping. But darned if I can find the link to it right now. If anyone out there feels like looking around for it and finds the link PLEASE let me know. Otherwise, when I come across it, I'll post it.
Wednesday, September 20, 2006
Sunday, September 17, 2006
As a part of the discovery exercises for Library 2.0, I'm blogging this photo from Flickr. Some of you are probably aware of Flickr (including some of my family whom I forced to sign up for Flickr and look at my photos!). I've learned something new about Flickr since I made you all do that: you can set up a family site where more than one person can add photos...for a wedding for instance, or a family reunion (hint, hint).
Anyhow, I'm particularly proud of this photo because as a co-chair of the committee that selected and made it possible for these eight really wonderful, interesting people to attend the NASIG 2006 Conference as award recipients. I'm really proud of the winners and of myself for being part of the effort to make it possible for them to be winners.
Friday, September 15, 2006
For those who are unfamiliar with Mozilla, it is an alternative web browser to Internet Explorer or Netscape (at least those are the most-used browsers, I think AOL has its own browser and there are other, less commonly used browsers out there like Opera). Anyhow, the thing about Mozilla is that (according to those who appear to know more than I do), it is less susceptible to the transfer of viruses. That's what attracted me to it. Since switching, I've found a couple of other features that I really like (although I confess to just downloading it and sort of learning to use it as I go along).
One feature I really like is the tabs across the top of the screen. Unlike IE which opens a new window every time you go to a new website, Mozilla simply opens a tab in the same window. That means no more "alt-tabbing" from one IE window to another. You just click on the tab you want and go on. It also lets people like me who usually have a lot of web pages open at once, remember what they're got open and where.
Another feature that I really like a lot is the display of favorite bookmarks just under the menu bar at the top of the page. And I'm picky about what appears on my page. I usually had IE set on full screen so nothing but the icons showed and I could see a very large amount of screen. But in Mozilla I can have my favorite bookmarks at the top of the screen and close the big bookmarks list completely so it probably amounts to the same amount of screen for viewing. Anyway, I like it.
I'm sure there's lots more to learn about Mozilla so I'll keep you posted as I find new, cool things. One last note, Mozilla is available free for the downloading from but those of you with older computers may want to read the fine print about technical requirements before downloading it.
Saturday, September 02, 2006
My plan is to work through the Learning 2.0 exercises each week and then continue to add things that I learn beyond their "23 Things You Can Do On The Web" and (hopefully) make use of in my own library and my own learning. It fits in with my current interest in (and maybe dissertation topic on)the uses to which scholars and soon-to-be scholars are putting advances in communication technology to improve and broaden scholarly communication.
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