Category Archives: grants

Out in the forest, and out on a limb

Images: A field crew disappearing into the forest; field sites and gear for our soil-carbon project.  All © Stephen Heard CC BY 4.0

Warning: long and detailed – but the details are really the point, so don’t give up too quickly.

I called this blog Scientist Sees Squirrel in recognition of my lack of an attention span.  For 25 years, I’ve been bobbing and weaving academically, shifting research focus as collaborators, funding, access to systems, and just my idiosyncratic curiosity have favoured new projects asking new questions in new systems.  This has benefits and, no doubt, costs (so I’m definitely not claiming it’s right for everyone or even that it’s optimal for me), but it’s kept me excited about science for a quarter of a century.

And I’ve done it again.

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Timelines in grant proposals are useless. Here’s how I put them to use.

Image: A completely useless Gantt-chart timeline, from a grant proposal I submitted before my recent epiphany

I’ve written a lot of grant proposals in my 30 years as a scientist, and that means I’ve jumped through a lot of hoops.  I can wring the most text from a specification of font size and margins.  I can describe a piece of research as simultaneously novel enough to be exciting and yet, at the same time, pedestrian enough to be risk-free.  I can justify the crap out of a budget.  But one hoop nettles me more than any other hoop held before me: the grant timeline (sometimes called “schedule of proposed activities”).

I can jump through that hoop, of course – I can make a Gantt chart with a veneer of plausibility.  But I don’t see the point.  Continue reading