Owning your authentic scientific voice

Owning your authoritative scientific “voice” is critical for ensuring that reviewers see you as a knowledgeable, credible expert prepared to undertake the work proposed in the application. When providing background information and describing the findings of other investigators, many applicants use…

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Reviewer Fatigue

Reviewer Fatigue implies that an Editor’s Request to Review a manuscript is more likely to be ignored or declined today than it would have been 10-15 years ago. Although many Editorials address concerns about Reviewer Fatigue…

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Salami Slicing Science

When I was a graduate student, one particular research group caught my attention because they seemed to publish a manuscript at least monthly. It didn’t take long, however, for me to appreciate that all of their publications were very similar; it was only the Results Section that changed substantively from one publication to the next.

At a time when writing research manuscripts intimidated me, I realized how easy preparing new manuscripts…

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Guidance on authorship

At virtually every Biomedical Publication Seminar I present, attendees line up during breaks to seek my input on conflicts they are currently facing regarding authorship. Thus, if you find yourself struggling to decide who should or shouldn’t be included as an author of a manuscript, you’re not alone.

Vera-Badillo et al. (Eur J Cancer, 2016) recently investigated the issue of Honorary and Ghost Authors of manuscripts…

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Open Access and Predatory Publications

In a study published in 2013, John Bohannon provided alarming information about open-access scientific journals. The author submitted a manuscript representing a fabricated study, from a fabricated author, from a non-existent research institute to 304 open-access journals. The manuscript contained…

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Should I recommend a reviewer for my manuscript?

Many biomedical journals offer authors an opportunity to identify potential reviewers for their manuscript. Published evidence has consistently supported the conclusion that author-recommended reviewers respond more favorably to submitted manuscripts than editor-selected reviewers. In a recent…

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Data show vs data shows – which is correct?

Over the past year in these posts, we have frequently emphasized the critical importance of proper usage of the English language. This emphasis is predicated upon the fundamental concept that it is important to say what you mean and mean what you say, particularly in writing grant applications. We recently received a query…

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The MOST IMPORTANT reason grant applications fail

Approximately two months ago, we posted a commentary in which we listed thirty reasons why applications for grant support were likely to fail. That post attracted significant interest among our readers as well as several comments. One of the more frequent questions concerned the issue as to whether the list of thirty reasons was presented in order of relative importance…

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Tips on optimizing opportunities for success in science

It is a simple fact of life that, similar to every other profession, scientists uniformly aspire to be successful in their chosen profession. Of potential importance, therefore, a very important recently published study by Andrew Higginson and Marcus Munato in the well-respected journal, PLOS Biology, November 10, 2016, page 1371 provides a fascinating insight into one way to do this…

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Hints: Writing Your Objectives

One of the fundamental points that is relevant to almost all grant proposals is the fact that the proposal is (or at least should be), designed to address a problem or need (that the target funding agency also recognizes as important). Thus, the primary (but certainly not only) purpose of the proposal should then be to explain to the funding agency (and/or the reviewers) what the applicant’s idea(s) would be as to how to address that need or fix the problem. To achieve these goals…

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Part 2: The growing dilemma with the biological/biomedical publication enterprise

In a recent post, we discussed a recent publication by R.D. Vale (“Accelerating Scientific Publication in Biology”, P.N.A.S. 2015; 112, 13,439-13,446, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1511912112) concerning the increased challenges associated with publication of new biological/biomedical research findings. In this recent publication, Dr. Vale offers one approach to potentially addressing this important issue…

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Another inspiring NSF success story

Since joining the faculty in the Department of Psychology at Idaho State University in 2005, Professor Tera Letzring has had a strong interest in how accurate judgments of personality traits are made. She has, for many years, been interested in the fact that several factors influence how accurately someone can judge a person’s personality traits. In thinking about this and based on many discussions…

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Part 2: Dangerous words to avoid in grant applications

Probably among the most commonly used words in grant proposals is the verb/noun “(to) understand”. Applicants very frequently plan grant applications that have been designed to “understand” something, whether an explanation for a certain social phenomenon, a biochemical pathway, clarification of an as yet to be identified series of observations, or even a way to explain the underlying reasons for a given historical event. Thus, how common it is to read: “The objective in this proposal is to understand the underlying reasons for…”. Alternatively, there are those applicants who feel it important to be…

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Part 1: Dangerous words that should be avoided in grant proposals

Two words that should usually be avoided by applicants in preparing their grant applications are “IF” and “WHETHER”. These words represent distinct manifestations of the same concept, since “If” implies “It might or it might not”, and “Whether” always provides for the option “Whether or not”. The primary problem with their use is that they both provide opportunities for a negative outcome to occur. While it is certainly possible that either a positive or an alternative…

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Are you thinking about an NSF CAREER Award application?

If so, is your application designed in such a way that it indicates that you really appreciate its purpose? We would suggest that this is not a trivial question, particularly given the relatively intense competition for these awards. As a consequence, low overall success rates (# awards/# applicants) are, accordingly, often considerably lower than for standard NSF grants. It makes great sense that any applicant considering applying for an NSF CAREER award should…

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Would you like to hone your proposal writing skills?

Experienced applicants, reviewers and funding agency officials generally agree that of the best ways to become a better proposal writer is to serve as a reviewer of proposals and most federal funding agencies provide opportunities to do this. The underlying reasons for being proactive in seeking out such opportunities are multiple. First, you will have the opportunity to observe the review process “up close and personal” which is likely to radically…

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A recent “Ask the Experts” from a reader re: NSF Program Officer

“Dear GWSW,
I recently heard back from the NSF ECR program officer on my Overview and Objectives section and, while she did agree that the proposal was appropriately theory-focused, she had serious reservations regarding the unique contribution of my proposal (i.e. ‘the area is already well covered by other applicants’). I followed up with more details on the data and methodology of my study and…

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