Why Proposals Fail (Bill Bernhagen, URSI):
This list is based on an article by Ernest M. Allen entitled “Why Are Research Grant Applications Disapproved,” Science 1960 (11/25): 1533. His analysis of 605 disapproved proposals to NIH suggests shortcomings common to other kinds of proposals. Many of these shortcomings could be overcome by a rewritten proposal and are not so insurmountable as may at first appear. Such a list may help you anticipate areas where your proposal could be strengthened. In order of frequency within each class:
a. The problem is of insufficient importance or is unlikely to produce any new or useful information.
b. The project is based on insufficient evidence, is doubtful, or is unsound.
c. The problem is more complex than the proposer appears to realize.
d. The problem has only local significance, or is one of production or control, or otherwise fails to fall sufficiently clearly within the general area of interest to the funder.
e. The problem is not sufficiently mature and warrants, at most, only a pilot study.
f. The project is overly involved, with too many elements under simultaneous investigation
g. The description of the project and its significance leaves the proposal nebulous and diffuse without clear outcomes.
a. The project activities are unsuited to the stated objective
b. The description of the approach to the problem is nebulous, diffuse, and lacks sufficient clarity to permit adequate evaluation.
c. The overall design of the project has not been carefully thought out.
d. The measurement aspects of the project have not been given sufficient consideration.
e. The approach lacks imagination
f. Controls are either inadequately conceived or inadequately described
g. The resources needed are either unsuited to the objectives or are may not be available
h. The number of people/clients served is inadequate
i. The physical resources contemplated are outmoded or otherwise inadequate
a. The investigator does not have adequate experience or training, or both, for this project
b. The investigator appears to be unfamiliar with recent pertinent literature or methods (or both)
c. The investigator’s previous work in this area does not inspire confidence
d. The investigator proposes to rely too heavily on insufficiently experienced associates
e. The investigator is spread too thinly; would be more productive if concentrated on fewer projects
f. The investigator needs more liaison with colleagues in this field or in collateral fields
a. Requirements for equipment or personnel, or both, are unrealistic
b. It appears that other responsibilities would prevent devotion of sufficient time and attention to this research
c. The institutional setting is unfavorable.
d. Previous grants, still active, are sufficient to cover the proposed project.
Questions Reviewers Ask (Bill Bernhagen, URSI):
© 2005 A.J.Filipovitch
Revised 28 January 2011