Day: February 23, 2017


Over the past few months, I have made some notable mistakes in how I spend my time and energy.


I participated in a funding-agency panel, led by a program manager who’s not funding me. At the same time, I had a bunch of proposals to mail-in review for a program manager at another agency, who is actually funding me. I prioritized the review of the proposals for the panel and was late a few days with review of some of the proposals in the mail-in batch.

Why was this a bad idea? The program manager on the panel was not at all interested in what I had to say, and was visibly annoyed with me whenever I opened my mouth.  I think he envisioned I would just silently fill the double-token position (theory plus female). I put a lot of effort into the reviews for this panel, and I prepared really well to present the proposals where I was the lead, but I don’t think it mattered (except perhaps for the potential awardees); the program manager was not impressed. Sure, I met some nice panelists and I read some nice proposals. (Btw, all the cool kids are using 11 pt Times New Roman for proposals.) But, I could have and should have just stayed home, because this program manager will never give me any money.

For this, I was late with the proposal review for the program manager who has been unfailingly supportive for years, both with money and with giving me high-visibility service, and who has been very appreciative of my work and contributions.

I will never again so stupidly prioritize the work for the people who haven’t already shown me support or kindness over those who actually have.


All the proposal reviewing has cut into my publication plans. I postponed the submission of a couple of papers in order to deal with the review load, and all  I have to show for it is… A bunch of not-yet-submitted papers and a bad taste in my mouth because I ended up going to the stupid panel.


As I wrote before, instead of working on a proposal, I am finishing up a paper from hell for the conference proceedings.

I am only stuck doing this because I promised I would give a talk to an industry colleague, and from there on this talk has been a gift that keeps on giving (not) — it seems ever more money and more time of mine keeps sinking into this favor.

I must become ridiculously discriminating about the conditions under which I am willing to give an invited talk.


Ever since much (all?) of NSF went to a single submission window for unsolicited proposals, and with restrictions to only submit one per cycle to a given division, people have been creative about finding ways to target multiple programs.

Last year, I received good reviews for one of my proposals, but no money. There was not  much I could improve, and from the program manager’s feedback I figured they simply didn’t want to fund that type of work. But, there was another program where the proposal would nominally fit. Unfortunately, over the past few years, the interim program manager there was extremely discouraging of the type of work similar to mine. Finally, a new, longer-term person took that position, and is again welcoming the proposals akin to what I do. This new manager gave me very specific feedback and encouraged the submission to his program in the fall 2016.

What’s stupid about all this is that a colleague from another institution wanted us to write a collaborative proposal to the same program and I went with that instead. The joint proposal was a ton of work and, to be perfectly honest, I don’t think it turned out that well. I also got stiffed in the budget. I would love for us to get funded, but I am not holding my breath.

So I blew my annual shot at this program by prioritizing what turned out to be a not particularly strong collaborative proposal over a very good, polished proposal of my own.


Working on this collaborative proposal ended up being way more time than I had envisioned and had cut into my single-PI submission to a different division. The latter turned out okay, but could have used another week of polishing.

So the less-than-great collaborative proposal ended up being in the way of not one, but two of my single-PI proposals.


The common theme is that I am not self-serving or discriminating enough when people want my time and effort. Yeah, I know I write about this a lot… It’s a work in progress.

I am miffed with myself for making some of these stupid choices, which ended up with more unnecessary work for me, took me away from the much needed relaxation time, yet will not only fail to benefit my career, but have explicitly thwarted other important maneuvers.

Weak, xykademiqz. Your game is weak.