I am done! Both of my NSF proposals have been submitted and I am breathing a big sigh of relief.

This is the first time I wrote two NSF proposals essentially in parallel (different directorates, no worries). They were both brand new, from scratch. The original plan was to write them sequentially, but the first one ended up spilling over and the second one had a last-minute program change which pushed the submission date forward and robbed me of 5 days.

I ended up submitting a very polished one and another that could have used a couple more read-throughs.

The latter one got the short end of the stick. It is not bad, but it is not as great as it could have been, and what’s missing are mostly the final touches.

I am too old to pull all-nighters, which I had to do last night in order to finish.

However, as if the fact that the program got changed last minute isn’t enough, the SRO* person informed me today that on account of Halloween they planned on leaving very early (before lunch) to do something with their kids. You could imagine how delighted I was to hear that. This is not the first time I ended up in a mad hurry to meet some I-need-to-leave-early-for-personal-reasons deadline of the cognizant SRO officer.

I really could have used another hour or two for another read through, especially since I hadn’t slept at all in order to finish writing. I had a student read through and especially hunt for typos, but  I did what I shouldn’t have (read the proposal after submission) and I now see that the student did a far less thorough job than I had hoped.

The thing is, funding at agencies that do peer review is so competitive… Typos kill. Everything seems to.

One can say “Well, why didn’t you just prepare everything well in advance?” to which I start cursing you under my breath. I have been working at capacity for a long time now, with extended hours every day. These things just take time to do really well. The last paper from the maniacal summer of paper writing was submitted on 9/11 (it got out recently after a lightning-fast review, yey!). Since then, I wrote two new proposals from scratch on top of regular teaching and life; one is mature and very polished, another is light and fun and has great ideas but as I now see has a few typos and some rough wording spots that I would have ideally ironed out with more time.

So about 6-7 weeks is enough to do two proposals from scratch, but it’s not enough to polish them both to high sheen. (Obviously, this is my experience. YMMV.)
Ultimately, I think I put more time and effort into the first one because I think it has a higher chance of funding.
But the other one is my baby, too!

DH says that the polished one won’t be funded but the unpolished one will. I guess we’ll see!

Good luck with writing to everyone who has NSF deadlines next week!


*SRO (Sponsored Research Office). They press the final submit button on proposals. These are called different things at different universities.


  1. That your SRO person would be allowed to leave early the day of a proposal deadline without the SRO chief making provisions to have someone fill in for her is beyond flabbergasting. Anyway, congratulations and good luck!

  2. Congrats on getting the proposals in! I’m sorry the second one didn’t get as polished as you would have liked. I hope it gets funded anyway!

  3. I’m working on a proposal today (and also two powerpoints for talks next week…) DH has the kids in the city. Tomorrow he gets to work on SBIR proposals and I get the kids.

  4. Thanks, everyone!
    nicoleandmaggie, good luck!
    Are a few off days in order now?
    Sorta…No, not really. But a couple of nights of good rest definitely are!

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