May 31, 2011

From The Buck Starts Here

By Karen M. Markin

Scientific expertise alone won't get you a research grant. In addition to having a good idea for your research, you must find an agency that needs what you will discover if you pursue your idea. Then you must establish your ability to carry it out on budget and on schedule, so the agency will trust you with thousands of dollars.

Submitting a winning proposal to the right agency can involve trial and error. If you're up against the tenure clock, you will want to avoid as many missteps as possible. Here are a few tips for the first timer on how to maximize success in preparing a document that is as different from a dissertation as a car commercial is from the owner's manual.
  • Check out your target funder's recent awards. The first step is to narrow down your list of possible grant agencies to the most promising prospects. The best way to do this is to see what they have supported in the past.
  • Speak with a program officer. Although requests for proposals posted on the grantmaker's Web site describes grant-program requirements, talk to a program officer to ensure that your specific project fits the funder's needs.
  • When preparing your proposal, follow the grantmaker's guidelines. If the program announcement says to limit the narrative to 15 pages, limit it to 15 pages. This may seem obvious but is frequently ignored.
  • Be particular about the little things. Pay attention to proper grammar, spelling, and punctuation.
  • Have a colleague read the proposal before you send it off. A second pair of eyes can be very helpful at spotting sections that need improvement. Choose an educated person who is not an expert in your field. Have the reader focus on overall organization and clarity.
  • Don't wait until the last minute to prepare and submit your application. Murphy's law usually prevails at proposal submission time: computers crash and copiers jam.
  • Don't assume that reviewers will be experts in your specialty or issue. Avoid jargon. Your reviewers will be educated people with expertise in your discipline, broadly defined. But they won't necessarily be familiar with the latest developments in your particular niche.
  • Don't give short shift to the budget and its justification. This is the first part of the proposal that some reviewers read. An experienced reviewer can get a clear idea of what you plan to do from those components.
  • Don't give up if you're rejected. Rejection is part of the process. Most everyone who submits grant proposals has been turned down at some point. See it as part of a larger process of grant-writing.
  • Don't forget to obtain copies of your grant reviewer's comments. To revise and resubmit, it is essential that you know why your proposal was turned down the first time. Sometimes reviewers' comments are not sent to you automatically and you need to request them. Do it.
To read the full article, visit The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Karen M. Markin is director of research development at the University of Rhode Island's research office.
This article is copyrighted by Karen M. Markin and first appeared in the Chronicle of Higher Education Volume 51, Issue 25, Page C1.

May 25, 2011

Common Mistakes Made by Grant Applicants

Professionals at foundations and consultancies say they see grant seekers making the same mistakes over and over again, including not tailoring their application to the grant, not contacting the grant maker, and over-promising on results.

Source: The Chronicle of Philanthropy

May 17, 2011

BSU's Virginia Ball Center announces its 2011-12 immersive learning courses

Immersive learning, the heart of a Ball State education, melds content, skills, societal need, and student interests into a transformative experience. IL brings interdisciplinary student teams together to solve problems for community partners. The result is a final product that enhances the community with a lasting impact.

At Ball State's Virginia B. Ball Center for Creative Inquiry, four Ball State University faculty members are chosen each year to teach interdisciplinary seminars to 15 students. The students are chosen by application or audition. Leading the seminars for the coming academic year:
Seminars for the 2011-12 academic year will examine the correlation between art and philosophy, vernacular memorials, the intersections of gaming and learning, and the presence of home ownership embedded in children's culture.

For more information about the seminars, please visit the Ball State news release by clicking here.

For more information about the Virginia B. Ball Center, visit their website at

May 13, 2011

ASPiRE Summer Support

Looking for support for your summer research / creative endeavors? The ASPiRE Internal Grant Program has several deadlines remaining for the following competitions:

Ad-Hoc Program
A supplemental program (limited to $250) to support costs associated with research or creative endeavors.
Upcoming Deadlines: May 16; June 15, 2011

The purpose of the ENHANCE Program is to provide support for faculty members involved in early investigations, the results of which will serve as the basis for a federal grant proposal. The funds will support Supplies, Equipment, Expenses, and Travel (S.E.E.T.) in costs (up to $3,000) to acquire preliminary research or other information that will directly impact the development of the proposal, enhance the feasibility of the request, and result in a stronger proposal submission.
Upcoming Deadlines: May 16; June 15, 2011

Reprint/Publication Support Program
Provides support for expenses associated with publication, reprints, and page charges.
Upcoming Deadlines: May 16; June 15, 2011

Travel Support Program
Provides assistance in securing external funding for research or sponsored projects. Travel is primarily for face-to-face meetings with program officers of funding agencies or foundations.
Upcoming Deadlines: May 16; June 15, 2011

International Travel Program
Program funds are awarded to tenured and tenure-track faculty members to facilitate international academic or creative activity
Upcoming Deadline: June 15, 2011
(For travel dates occurring July 1, 2011 - August 14, 2011)

For questions regarding the ASPiRE Program, please contact the ASPiRE Program Manager, or email

Funding Opportunities: Learning in Formal and Informal Science

The Division of Research on Learning in Formal and Informal Settings
DRL invests in projects to enhance STEM learning for people of all ages in both formal and informal learning settings. Its mission includes promoting innovative and transformative research and development, and evaluation of learning and teaching in all STEM disciplines. New and emerging areas of STEM must play prominent roles in efforts to improve STEM education. The integration of cutting-edge STEM content and the engagement of scientists, engineers, and educators from the range of disciplines represented at NSF is encouraged in all DRL initiatives. DRL's role is to be a catalyst for change by advancing theory, method, measurement, development, evaluation, and application in STEM education. The Division seeks to support both development of promising new ideas and large-scale implementation of proven educational innovations.

The Division's programs and activities offer a set of complementary approaches for advancing research, development, and improvement of practice.

  • The Informal Science Education (ISE) program supports innovation in anywhere, anytime, lifelong learning, through investments in research, development, infrastructure and capacity-building for STEM learning outside formal school settings.
  • The Discovery Research K-12 (DR K-12) program enables significant advances in preK-12 and teacher learning of the STEM disciplines through research and development on innovative resources, models, and technologies for use by students, teachers, administrators and policy makers.
  • The Innovative Technology Experiences for Students and Teachers (ITEST) program invests in projects designed to address the growing demand for professional and information technology workers through the design, implementation, scale-up, and testing of technology-intensive educational experiences for students and teachers, and through related research studies.
  • The Research and Evaluation on Education in Science and Engineering (REESE) program advances research at the frontiers of STEM learning, education, and evaluation, in order to provide foundational knowledge for improving STEM teaching and learning at all educational levels and in all settings.
  • The Promoting Research and Innovation for Methodologies in Evaluation (PRIME) program emphasizes innovative approaches for determining the impacts of STEM education projects and programs, and expanding the theoretical foundations for evaluating STEM education and workforce development initiatives.
  • Transforming STEM Learning (TSL) explores the opportunities and challenges implied by radically innovative visions of the future for STEM learning.

Each of these programs and activities is also intended to improve their field's capacity to further STEM learning. They are central to NSF's strategic goals to: Transform the Frontiers, Innovate for Society, and Perform as a Model Organization. These goals emphasize "... the seamless integration of education and research..." and address the connections between NSF programs, societal needs, and the key role of new knowledge and creativity (NSF, 2011).

May 11, 2011

NIH Personal Statement Template

In January 2010, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) revised their biosketch guidelines to include a mandatory personal statement. The NIH guidelines offer this advice in preparing your personal statement.

Personal Statement. Briefly describe why your experience and qualifications make you particularly well-suited for your role (e.g., PD/PI, mentor, participating faculty) in the project that is the subject of the application.”

The personal statements we have critiqued as grant writers and the ones that we have evaluated as grant reviewers have been relatively unimpressive. Either they rehash what is in the proposal narrative or read like last minute, uncogitated copy. Relatedly, the NIH guidelines regarding the personal statement are rather terse.

We recommend writing a three-paragraph personal statement with subheadings as follows.

  • Proposal Goal. This would be a brief, one-two sentence overview of what the proposal is trying to accomplish in big picture terms. Remind the reviewers what your proposal target is before you persuade them that you can reach that target.
  • Relevant Experiences. As you write this paragraph, lift up the different types of experiences you have had, e.g., academic experience, administrative experience, research experience, mentoring experience, research experience.
  • Leadership Qualification. In this section, you describe why your relevant experiences qualify you for your role in the project. For example, if you were to be the Principal Investigator (PI) in a project, you might indicate that your prior experiences form a solid foundation to assume the PI role because you have developed administrative skills essential to manage large scale projects that also require a broad range of people skills. You want to point out that you have the ability to manage, decide, and set priorities. Your past experiences have shown that you accept responsibility and carry out action plans. Your communication skills motivate others to accept responsibility and achieve. Use your relevant experiences to show how those developed skills transfer to essential leadership qualifications.

We recommend the personal statement be at least one-half page long. You can find the NIH biosketch guidelines in their updated (March 25, 2011) SF424 R&R instructions here.

Even if you don’t apply for NIH funding, you should look at the NIH biosketch formatting and consider using it in applications to other sponsors, unless they have specific formatting requirements.

May 10, 2011

From Grants Resource Center: ED Cancellations Confirmed, but Still Not Official

Last week, the GRC learned that the U.S. Department of Education will cancel three competitions of popular grant programs, two of which currently have open solicitations. Because of the prior uncertainty of the FY 11 budget, program officers within ED were advised to take a “business as usual” approach while specific budget cuts were being determined.

Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education (FIPSE) Comprehensive Program--Just two weeks ago, the GRC hosted a web conference featuring program officer Claire Cornell where she acknowledged that the Comprehensive Program may endure some budget cuts. However, she said then that ED was still proceeding with a new competition with a May 23, 2011 deadline. More recently, Sarah Beaton, co-coordinator, acknowledged that an official cancellation notice should appear in the Federal Register soon.

This is an unfortunate turn of events for the Comprehensive Program, as FY 11 may be the last year applicants see this program in its current form. In the FY 12 proposed budget, the Comprehensive Program has been zeroed out (but not proposed for elimination) in favor of a new First in the World competition within FIPSE, which would promote and test innovative strategies for improving college access, postsecondary education quality, and postsecondary completion.

European Union (EU)-U.S. Atlantis Program--The GRC featured this program during the Proposal Development Workshop in February and it still has a deadline set for May 24, 2011. Rumors of budget cuts for this program had been circulating among EU stakeholders a month or so before ED acknowledged it. Additionally, the other international programs formally housed under FIPSE (North American Mobility, U.S.-Russia, and U.S.-Brazil) may also suffer from severe budget cuts.

Emergency Management for Higher Education--This program will not have a competition for new awards in FY 11 and no solicitation has been released. The GRC will follow the future of this program closely as it is not mentioned in the FY 12 proposed budget.

The Sponsored Programs Office will let the campus community know more as we hear it.

May 05, 2011

Uncovering the Past on the Wabash

“It’s great working with the community. They were all very interested in the project that we were doing, and it’s great to see the community come together and get involved in such important work.” - Stefan Woehlke, Graduate Student, Anthropology

It’s 1791 and the U.S. infantry are surrounded by opposing Native American forces near the banks of the Wabash River. Pinned down and outnumbered, soldiers are forced to fall back, surrendering the land to the Native American warriors.

Three years later, American forces are again forced to defend their territory, this time at a fort built near the Wabash. A fierce battle ensues that results in several casualties, but this time the U.S. soldiers are victorious, not only securing the fort, but gaining control of land that would become one of America’s earliest settlements.

Military assaults like the Battle on the Wabash (1791) and the Battle of Fort Recovery (1794) are often forgotten in the annals of history. However, a team of Ball State researchers have embarked on a journey to uncover the remnants of wars more than two centuries old.

Mark Hill
Awarded a grant from the U.S. Department of Interior National Park Service, Dr. Mark Hill, Assistant Professor of Anthropology and Director of Applied Archaeology Laboratories, and his colleagues, Dr. Colleen Boyd and Dr. Mark Groover of the Department of Anthropology and Ms. Beth McCord formerly of the department, began working together on the development of the American Battlefield Protection Project (ABPP). Based in Ohio, the project’s primary goals are to: (a) pinpoint the exact location of the Battle on the Wabash and the Battle of Fort Recovery and (b) provide Ohio residents with the information needed to protect and preserve the surrounding sites of the battlefields.

With no set boundaries currently delineating the 97 acres of land on which both historical battles took place, extensive background research was first needed to understand the geographic layout of the area. To accomplish this task, student researchers from the department of history and anthropology were recruited to assist the ABPP team. Historic sources, including maps and texts derived from primary and secondary sources, were examined to identify key features and events associated with the two battles. Local historians and collectors were also interviewed to determine the location of previously identified battle-related artifacts. Newspaper articles and town records were reviewed to determine past construction and development activities within the battlefield area.

Additionally, Native American communities were also contacted for any documents and stories passed down orally that were related to the battles. However, acquiring this information can sometimes pose a challenge as history graduate student Eliot Reed points out, “It’s always difficult when you do Native American research. There are very few resources because you are usually using British and American sources.”

Once all the data from the written and oral resources were collected, they were used to help develop the research design. Using geographic information systems (GIS) digital mapping software, students were then able to better identify key battlefield features and terrain. Anthropology graduate student Stefan Woehlke explains: “I combine historical maps with modern maps of the battle area; sort of laying maps on top of one another to get an understanding of the battlefield layout. Some of what I’m trying to do is predict where the Native American Indian’s were and the paths they took when they were surrounding the American military.”

Now that the research phase is complete, students have focused their attention on excavating the battlefield sites for war remnants. Prior to entering the field, a team of approximately 10 students participated in a field school—an archaeological “boot camp”—to equip them with the training and knowledge needed to effectively locate and identify artifacts. “It’s a really good opportunity for students to get the opportunity to learn archeology,” said field school operator Dr. Mark Groover.

In addition to metal detector training, students are taught a number of other advanced techniques such as magnetometer, resistivity, and ground penetrating radar survey methods. “The research and fieldwork is great,” said Jessie Moore, a second year anthropology graduate student who is using this project for her thesis. “I want to be an archeological technician or archeologist, [but] without this I would have no clue how to do basic methodology in the field. A lot of positions out there require you to have that kind of experience.”

A majority of the excavations are being conducted on private property so landowner permission was crucial in beginning excavations. However, even more important was building relationships with the land owners. For this, Dr. Hill credits the assistance of Christine Keller, an archeologist on the team and native of the community being excavated. “Christine is our primary liaison with the community,” explains Hill. “She’s very active in the community and represents us well with the Fort Recovery Historical Society. Having these connections allows us to be more involved and to provide us the opportunity to really be a part of the community, rather than being an outsider.”

In addition, Hill values the partnerships formed with the Archeological Society of Ohio and Fort Recovery Museum that will be providing volunteers during the course of the project. Any artifacts found as a result of the field excavations will be donated to the museum to be on display for the public.

If you would like more information on this project contact Dr. Mark Hill or Christine Keller in the Department of Anthropology.

May 03, 2011

Fulbright Scholar Program Information Session: May 4

Wednesday, May 4
12 noon - 2 p.m.
Room 303 - L.A Pittenger Student Center

The Sponsored Programs Office will present an information session on the Core Fulbright Scholar Program for Ball State University faculty and professional personnel Wednesday, May 4, from 12 noon to 2 p.m. in Room 303 of the L. A. Pittenger Student Center.Please feel free to bring a brown bag lunch. Beverages will be provided.

Former Ball State Fulbrighters, Jay Bagga and John Pichtel, will share their insight and experiences about the Fulbright program; SPO and Contracts and Grants Office staff will sketch out application procedures and award management.

Click here for a PDF of the information session agenda.

Fulbright Application Deadline: August 1, 2011 for the 2012-13 award period.

Information for all Fulbright programs is available at Flash drives containing guidelines ad application material will be available at the session.

RSVPs and questions about the workshop may be directed to Augusta Wray.

Interested, but not able to attend?
For an individual consultation, please contact Justin Miller.

**Students interested in applying for the Fulbright US Student Program, please contact Dom Caristi.**