National Science Foundation TUES Web conference offers insight into writing competitive proposals

Towson, Md. (April 28, 2010): For faculty unable to attend the American Association of State Colleges and Universities webcast on Transforming Undergraduate Education in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (TUES), below is a summary of proposal preparation advice shared with attendees that offers guidelines not only when applying under the TUES program but any funding program offered by the National Science Foundation (NSF). The Office of Sponsored Programs & Research (OSPR) is also making available the handouts from the presentation in the "related links" section of this web page. The TUES program announcement will run for three years, so this information will be of use whether you are applying under this year’s competition or in a subsequent year.

Presenters included a NSF program officer, a Course, Curriculum, Laboratory Improvement (CCLI) awardee, and a reviewer.  Although each had different perspectives, each offered similar advice.

  • Before getting started, read the Request for Proposals (RFP) carefully. Use the language and headings to organize and write your proposal.
  • Share your project idea with the program officer to get feedback and guidance.  It is recommended that you email a project summary and follow-up with a phone call.
  • The TUES program has special interest in projects that will transform undergraduate education, hence, the title change. Transformative projects revolutionize or challenge existing education practices or paradigms, and enhance student learning.
  • Do your research and review available literature on undergraduate Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) education. One resource suggested by the panel is “How Students Learn,” a 2005 National Research Council report on effective teaching mechanisms.
  • Although research and implementation may be at the local level, outcomes should be transferable to a national level. Projects should have an external focus rather than an internal focus and should demonstrate a significant effort to facilitate adaptation at other sites. 
  • Projects must demonstrate sustainability. It is expected that results will be institutionalized at participating schools.
  • Dissemination plans should be active versus passive. Saying you are going to publish and present your research outcomes is not enough (passive). Dissemination plan must include active activities to engage additional sites and address diverse populations.
  • Remember that reviewers come from diverse disciplines, expertise, experience, and backgrounds.  Allow those inside and outside your field to review your proposal. Proposals should avoid jargon and undefined terms. Check grammar and spelling carefully and make sure your project summary addresses the intellectual merit and broader impacts of the project.  Workshop handouts provide clear guidelines on determining what is meant by intellectual merit and broader impacts.

The overall consensus was that your proposal should be creative, take risks, and demonstrate impact. This year’s deadline for TUES Type 1 projects is May 26, 2010. Please contact the OSPR at if you are interested in applying. 

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