Tips on applying for an NSF DDIG
Doug Levey
Dept. of Biology
1. Why apply?
2. Understanding the Program and the
Process.
3. What the proposal should look like.
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• Good odds: 20-30% of proposals can
1. Why apply?
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be funded.
It looks great on your CV
It forces to you clarify your ideas
and sharpen your pitch
Guaranteed Feedback (don’t be
afraid of failure!)
Practice, practice, practice….
2. Understanding the Program and
Process.
• DDIG = ?
Doctoral Dissertation IMPROVEMENT Grant
So, explain how the grant will help you fill
in a “missing piece” of your work
• Always keep in mind that reviewers are
– Human (under pressure, yet easily bored)
– Generalists (keep prose simple & friendly)
– Perfectionists
• Broader impacts are key (seek advice)
3. What the proposal should look like
• Perfect!
• Convincing
– frame a Big Question (recent references!)
– point out a missing piece
– explain its importance
– lay out your approach
Goal: “Why hasn’t anyone already done this?
– it’s so obvious!”
• Must have hypotheses or explicit goals
3. What the proposal should look like
• Use different fonts; highlight key points
• Include figures and pictures
• Provide “preliminary” data. (You’re a
senior graduate student, after all.)
• Take Broader Impacts very seriously.
Show a track record, if you can. Be
explicit about plans.
Example from a successful DDIG
Ecologists have long been challenged to understand
species distributions and the ecological factors
that maintain species range limits. Montane
regions have allowed ecologists to study range limits
for multiple species simultaneously because habitats
and species composition often change abruptly
along altitudinal gradients. Tropical montane regions
should be key landscapes in this area of research
because of their high species diversity and the
concentration of range limits at small spatial scales
along altitudinal gradients, which offers
unprecedented opportunity to study replicated
patterns.
Credit: Jill Jankowski
Example
Ecologists have long been challenged to understand
species distributions and the ecological factors that
maintain species range limits. Montane regions
have allowed ecologists to study range limits for
multiple species simultaneously because habitats
and species composition often change abruptly
along altitudinal gradients. Tropical montane
regions should be key landscapes in this area of
research because of their high species diversity and
the concentration of range limits at small spatial
scales along altitudinal gradients, which offers
unprecedented opportunity to study replicated
patterns.
Example
Ecologists have long been challenged to understand
species distributions and the ecological factors that
maintain species range limits. Montane regions have
allowed ecologists to study range limits for multiple
species simultaneously because habitats and species
composition often change abruptly along altitudinal
gradients. Tropical montane regions should be key
landscapes in this area of research because of
their high species diversity and the concentration
of range limits at small spatial scales along
altitudinal gradients, which offers unprecedented
opportunity to study replicated patterns.
From Panel Summary
Broader Impact Strengths: The broader impacts were
impressive. The co-PI has put a lot of time and effort
into ensuring that her work will have the greatest impact
on the most people. She works with US students, both
women and minorities, mentors Peruvian students, and also
does outreach to middle and high school students. Pollen
samples new to the Neotropical pollen collection will
contribute to a growing online database; a hummingbirdflowering plant photo guide, featuring hummingbird species
for which pollen is being analyzed in this study along with
their primary flowering plants in Manu will be produced. A
set of three compact discs of recorded bird species from the
montane forests of Manu, which are currently being
organized by an undergraduate student and be available to
researchers distributed beginning investigation with birds of
the Peruvian Andes.
Broader Impact Weaknesses: None identified.