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Advice on seeking NSF grants

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Commentary
David Brown

​Before chemistry professor David Brown writes a proposal for a National Science Foundation (NSF) grant, he shares his plans with one of the agency's program directors.

"More people should contact folks at NSF with their ideas," he said, noting that the federal agency encourages the practice.

“If nothing else, they [program directors] will point you in the direction of the appropriate program,” Brown said.

To write the best proposal possible, Brown suggests community college faculty members learn about NSF’s funding opportunities by subscribing to its daily digest and other automatic emails.

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His next step involves checking the staff list on the NSF website for the Division of Undergraduate Education, which awards most grants to two-year colleges. Brown looks for individuals from his discipline assigned to the programs that coincide with his ideas. For instance, a plan to improve technician education would likely fall under the Advanced Technological Education program.

Brown then emails the program director he identifies, requesting time to talk on the phone or in-person, if he is going to be in Washington, D.C. A reply may not come immediately, but Brown said program directors are "very responsive" and open to high-risk, high-reward thinking. The agency seeks ideas that will have the most impact, he added.

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