Sheltons Organic Turkey

if I empty out all the unimportant stuff here, maybe there'll be more room in my head for important things

name: shelton brett
location: western u.s.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Good reviews

Well, there's good reviews and bad reviews. The folks in my business normally get some of both. We are charged often with having to write our own reviews, and I find it's always much easier to find things I don't like in a proposal than things that I do like. The important thing for me to remember is that for every negative comment I make, to partner it with constructive suggestions on how to improve it. Even if I don't necessarily agree with the idea behind the proposal, I try to help the author with suggestions.

So, we in this business need to have thick skins. I personally like to keep a record of some of the more horrible rejections I get, something suggested to me at an early stage of my studies. I recently received reviews from 2 people that were deciding whether or not my research idea was worth funding or not. The idea behind the proposal:
To gather data about computer security and Internet safety in the public schools of this state (i.e., determine "what's going on" in terms of policy, practice, and responsibility) and to create an action plan for developing education, if needed, based on the analysis.
Here are some excerpts from Reviewer 1:
Determining the potential for attracting additional funding relies on the quality of the proposal and a clear description of why additional funding would be needed. Indeed all four evaluation criteria rely on proposal quality.

This proposal is poorly written.

What is the difference between a data synthesis and findings?

The literature review provides no convincing evidence that the proposed project is needed. No literature is cited. Referencing web addresses give the reader very little information about the reference.

Aren't computer security issues part of a computer specialists training? I surely hope so.

On page 5 quantitative and qualitative analysis of the data is proposed. However, data analysis is never described in the proposal.

The writing on page 4, is particularly vague, e.g., do you collect a "data analysis?"
In general the proposal seriously needs editing.

There probably is a need for including computer security issues in teacher education, but that need is not convincingly established in this proposal. And, I wonder why it isn't included in the (sic) class for preservice teachers?
And some excerpts from Reviewer 2:
This proposal is so poorly prepared that there is little reason for optimism about future extramural funding.

Now, with the unverified assumption that needs do exist (see, e.g., pp. 7, 8), there is no provision for the contingency that the survey data would indicate that there is no need or a more limited need than envisioned in the proposal.

The list of procedures on page 4 is full of vagueness. In short, the description of methodology is wholly inadequate.

Even if the research element of the proposal were adequate, it is doubtful that NSF would fund a request for funding to build a course for teacher education (the reference to a curriculum in the proposal is never elaborated on, but a place for a new curriculum in teacher education seems unlikely) and for the training of school
administrators in computer safety. The reach of the project would be too narrow, both in terms of technological impact on education and the scope of any research.

Given the condition of the proposal noted above, it is difficult to anticipate any benefit to (sic) this state's citizens from such a… grant. There is a brief discussion of potential impact on page 10, but it is at such a general level that it adds no credibility to the likelihood of benefit.

So, you don't get to choose who reviews your proposal. If I could, I would choose someone who knows the difference between "data synthesis" and "findings." I would choose someone who would not complain about not seeing the "need" for this funding yet at the same time will assume that it's important enough that it's already being taught. (It isn't.) And I would choose someone who wouldn't complain of vagueness and at the same time, write a sentence like:
Now, with the unverified assumption that needs do exist (see, e.g., pp. 7, 8), there is no provision for the contingency that the survey data would indicate that there is no need or a more limited need than envisioned in the proposal.
Clear as a bell, right?

The bottom line, stated clearly in the proposal, is that computer security in our state's schools isn't being taught in a uniform, successful fashion. It is important to research what is going on. And that's why you're reading the grant proposal.

I really could react to each and every comment of the two reviewers and make this really long and drawn-out, but why? It almost speaks louder if I don't react at all. I'll just file these reviews with my other rejection letters, always good for a laugh as well as a little sip of humility.