Adventures in funding applications

Just got back the decision on my proposal for the NSF’s International Research Fellowship, which would’ve paid for me to go to southern France and do kickass field experiments with the study plant I’ve currently only seen in a greenhouse, Medicago truncatula. Except my project was rated “not competitive.”

It looks like my chief mistake was writing with an audience of evolutionary ecologists in mind when, in fact, the IRF covers a broader range of science, and the reviewer panels reflect that. Which is to say, I got dinged for using “jargon” twice—the first time that’s ever happened in my grant-writing experience—and one reviewer (the third one, natch) had this to say under the heading of “Qualifications of applicant, including applicant’s potential for continued growth”:

The applicant is obviously able, and has written what, judging by their titles, are interesting papers of general interest. The proposal worries me because it was full of bureaucratic generalities about what we would learn and the benefits to be gained therefrom … The top half page of the project summary gave me precious little idea whether the author had any mind or not. He obviously does, but when reading the proposal I kept wanting to tell him to read Homer’s Iliad, or J-H Fabre’s Souvenirs Entomologiques. or Darwin’s Origin of Species, to learn how to liven his stuff with concrete, illustrative detail. But I expect the applicant has plenty of potential, and plenty of willingness, to grow. [Emphasis added.]

Ow. I guess I’d better try and shoehorn in some references to the “wine-dark sea” if I want to revise and resubmit next fall.◼