Initial Publication Date: February 1, 2017

Writing GER Grant Proposals

Grant funding may be needed to provide the financial support to conduct research in geoscience education. Writing successful grant proposals is therefore important and can be challenging. The following tips, examples, writing templates and links can help you be a more informed and effective proposal writer.

Tips for Proposal Writing

These tips are the collective wisdom of current and past program officers, and were shared with participants at the 2016 GER Community Planning Workshop by Keith Sverdrup (NSF and University Wisconsin, Milwaukee). They do not, however, represent official NSF advice or policy.

1. Read the Program Announcement. Talk with a program officer to make sure that your ideas fit the program. Contact the program officer via email and send her/him a one-page summary. Be patient.

2. Work on Projects you Care Deeply About. Let your commitment come through. Make a compelling case for the need and importance of the work to your institution and to others.

3. Do Your Homework. Build on what others have done. Know the literature. Be current. Add to the body of knowledge. Discuss the value added of your project.

4. Think Broader Impacts. Your project must have more than just a local impact (i.e., beyond your students and your institution). Consider how others can build on your proposed work. Think about what is transferable and what can be sustained.

5. Have Measurable Goals and Objectives. Enhancing student learning, improving undergraduate education, and other similar things are lofty, but may be difficult to measurable. Make sure you have measurable goals and objectives. Consider what activities will align with such goals, what will be delivered in the end, and what is needed to convince others that this will work and is worth supporting.

6. Think Teamwork. Successful projects are team efforts, although individuals matter too. Your project team should be greater than the sum of the parts. Identify your support network (e.g., administrators, colleagues, collaborators, industry) and keep them engaged. Get a good group of internal and external advisors and an independent evaluator (or evaluation team).

7. Use Good Management Skills. Develop a realistic timeline with milestones and key deliverables. Develop a strong management plan for the team and project, and be sure to engage and empower your team (with accountability built in).

8. Evaluation is about "impact and Effectiveness". Consider how you will know that the project goals are being met. You need evidence to know your project is making an impact and is effective. You can not evaluate yourself; external (independent) validation is key. Build in evaluation from the beginning.

9. Spread the Word. have a proactive dissemination plan. A website is generally necessary, but not sufficient. Disseminate within your scholarly community and beyond (reach other disciplines). Share the materials developed widely.

10. Serve as a Reviewer. Offer to be a reviewer and to help others. Gain experience and learn from reviewing strong and weak proposals. Find programs for which you have an expertise and that you think you want to submit to. Email the program officer and share your interest to be a reviewer, and include your resume/CV.

Examples of Project Descriptions from Successfully Funded GER Proposals

One of the best ways to learn how to write strong and effective grant proposals is to read good examples. You can find examples of successfully funded NSF geoscience education research (as well as geoscience research) grant proposals at the Early Career Geoscience Faculty: Teaching, Research, and Managing Your Career site.

Additional Resources

  • One potential funding source for GER projects is the Improving Undergraduate STEM Education (IUSE) Program through the National Science Foundation Division of Undergraduate Education. If this solicitation is a good match for your ideas, take advantage of an IUSE proposal writing template (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 27kB Sep19 16) to organize your ideas. This resource was developed by former NSF Program Officers, Jill Singer (Buffalo State) and Jeff Ryan (University of South Florida) and funded by a NSF TUES grants (DUE-1134954 and DUE-1134963). Additional resources can be found on their project site .
  • The NAGT GER Division includes a list of upcoming grant and award deadlines in their newsletter The GER Exchange.

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