Note from Jai: this post is by Jeffrey Bodwin, who has signed up for the SciFund Challenge. He is a chemist and associate professor at Minnesota State University Moorhead.
As previously mentioned, a “real” grant proposal can be a massive pile of paper, crammed full of brilliant information and insight. Unlike many students, many grant writers I know are trying to decrease font sizes and margins so they can fit more information into the “limited space” allowed for the actual proposal. That means that writing a microfunding proposal is easier, right?
Hmm, that really depends upon your writing strengths. The people reviewing my “real” grant proposals are chemists. They know the jargon, and I’m expected to use it early and often. I have to make sure I include an exhaustive list of references because if I miss ONE critical reference, it’s almost guaranteed that one of the reviewers will either be that author or know that author or be one of that author’s previous students. If you miss what someone considers to be a critical reference (often because they wrote it), you are sure to have a negative vote on the review panel.
What about #SciFund? Ah, there’s the opposite challenge. The people “reviewing” these proposals will not be experts, they will be regular citizens of the web. Sure, some of them will have some chemistry background, some of them may even be brilliant internationally acclaimed chemists, but the majority of them will not. The average #SciFund reviewer/contributor will not be impressed by jargon. Chemical equations? Mm, no. Copious amounts of data and graphs and expertly crafted scientific reasoning? They’ll stop reading by the bottom of the first page. For a popularly funded proposal, you have to write to the crowd. They don’t care about the scientific minutiae, they want to know why this research is important the them. Will it cure Grandma’s disease? Will it make gas cheaper? Will it make a better tasting tomato? In most ways, a crowdfunded effort is not a research proposal, it is a sales pitch. I think that’s a critical change in mind-set that can make the process go more smoothly. That’s not to say it’s easier or harder. It’s a different skill set and should be treated as such. Hmm, I guess that means I should get back to working on mine…