Thursday, November 1, 2007

How much should I tell?

Herb and I had another meeting today about my proposal, a longer one this time over dinner. Honestly I didn't expect this much attention from him about this but I think it's helping my proposal tremendously. We do have a disagreement about how NSF reviews the Graduate Research Fellowship proposals. I mentioned this in a post a few weeks ago. Herb thinks I will be disadvantaged if I tell them that I primarily want to teach when I finish my Ph.D. (preferably at a small liberal arts college, but we'll just see what happens). He's afraid that I'm unlikely to have a teaching-based reviewer and that a research-focused person reading my review won't understand why I want to teach. This is where I think Herb is out of touch. As far as I know he hasn't had any students get a NSF GRF (certainly not recently) but he has written and gotten many other NSF grants with his students. I think the GRF is a different ballgame. I'm going to post the criteria that applicants are supposed to meet in order to be competitive for this fellowship, and it includes strong emphasis on the broader impacts of your research.

Intellectual Merit
The intellectual merit criterion includes demonstrated intellectual ability and other accepted requisites for scholarly scientific study, such as the ability:
(1) to plan and conduct research;
(2) to work as a member of a team as well as independently;
(3) to interpret and communicate research findings.
Panelists will consider: the strength of the academic record, the proposed plan of research, the description of previous research experience, references, Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) General and Subject Tests scores, and the appropriateness of the choice of institution relative to the proposed plan for graduate education and research.

Broader Impacts
The broader impacts criterion includes contributions that
(1) effectively integrate research and education at all levels, infuse learning with the excitement of discovery, and assure that the findings and methods of research are communicated in a broad context and to a large audience;
(2) encourage diversity, broaden opportunities, and enable the participation of all citizens- women and men, underrepresented minorities, and persons with disabilities-in science and research;
(3) enhance scientific and technical understanding;
(4) benefit society.
Applicants may provide characteristics of their background, including personal, professional, and educational experiences, to indicate their potential to fulfill the broader impacts criterion.

Each of the three application essays (personal statement, plan of research, and previous research) is supposed to address both the Intellectual Merit and Broader Impacts criteria. I think they want people like me who want to integrate research and education with undergraduates and lead community outreach programs that strengthen science education. I also plan to do significant outreach at my field site for my Ph.D. research in cooperation with a grassroots environmental organization. I'm planning to tell them these things, but Herb doesn't want me to pigeon hole myself into the liberal arts college hole and leave things more open-ended instead.

I am extremely interested to hear from people who have gotten a GRF, not gotten a GRF, or been a reviewer for the GRF. What do you think?

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