Writing Proposals: Science or Not?

Annette C. Hollmann ah690549 at bcm.tmc.edu
Fri Aug 29 17:21:16 EST 1997


In article <34006CD8.6F52 at unity.ncsu.edu> Susan Hogarth <sjhogart at unity.ncsu.edu> writes:
>Sarah L. Pallas wrote:
>
>> ... I love DOING science but don't get
>> to spend enough time.  Instead, I teach, write grants,...
>
>I hear this complaint a lot. It seems a shame that being a PhD *student*
>selects for people who *love* the bench, and will work endlessly on the
>minutia of science, while being a lab PI actually neccesitates a more
>"big picture" view of science. 

Actually, not only science - but also personnel management, budgeting, and
salesmanship. IMHO that part of science is essentially like running a
small business.

>
>Personally, I look *forward* to running a lab; I think I can accomplish
>more in science than just running a few experiments. 
>
>I haven't written any formal proposals yet, but even the small amount of
>writing required by my prof/committee seems to facus my thinking and
>lead to new ideas. Sometimes I wonder if grant proposals and
>publications aren't the *meat* of science; after all, what's the good of
>doing a bunch of experiments if no one ever finds out about them, and
>has the meaning of them explained?

There is a vast difference between focused thinking and writing grants. A
grant must be written in a specific format, and must be written with the
goal of selling the project, not the goal of figuring out the system.

For me, any kind of writing requires substantial effort because I have
what I call a "Crayola Brain".
I can figure out the most complex concepts and the most convoluted piles
of data - but without a pen in hand I'd have a hard time telling people
how to get from the lab to the bus stop.
The problem is that my brain works in pictures, not words.
If I could write grants in the format my brain likes to use, it would be
much easier. I think I'm much better of being a staff scientist somewhere.
If I come up with something interesting, I can fly it by the boss in
diagram form, and (s)he can write the grant if so inclined.

Also, working at the lab bench is one of the things that makes my mind
come up with interesting and useful ideas. For me, highlky
structured writing makes my thoughts come to a complete halt :-(

Annette



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