NSF GRFP News

Holas amigos,

I know you’re due a new blog soon. I made a video and I’m waiting to hear back on copyright permissions before I start writing the blog, since it’ll change how I structure it a bit. Hopefully the company will respond…soonish.

Anyways, I wanted to let you know that I did not receive the GRFP. Back in October, I had hoped that this blog would be a more positive one, but as a labmate quoted to me, you don’t always get what you want.

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First, if you want to read my Research Statement and Personal Statement, I’ve posted them here:

RS

PS.png

And now for the reviews:

NSF1NSF2NSF3

These were hard for me to read. But let’s break these down to each response’s main points. And I’m going to respond to their critiques in a healthy, level-headed, rational way.

Reviewer #1 IM:

  • Pros: solid interdisciplinary aspect with science communication experience
  • Cons: none

Reviewer #1 BI: 

  • Pros: extensive outreach experience and appears to genuinely care about improving other people’s lives. 
  • Cons: none

I like reviewer 1.  Their comments are short, though, and seem to mostly stem from the personal statement. There’s no explicit comment about my proposed research, though. The “Excellent” makes me think s/he liked it, but they didn’t say that outright.

Reviewer #2 IM: 

  • Pros: well organized, logical, and justified experiment, addresses main questions in the field
  • Cons: lacks predicted outcomes and reiteration of significance, doesn’t have an evolutionary aspect

I’m ecstatic that the main positive comment is that my experiments are logical and well-designed. I don’t remember if I said this in the first GRFP blogs, but I went through four or five rounds of experimental ideas. They all revolved around the pneufish, obviously, but choosing the experiments and making sure I could address every facet of the projects in the 2-page limit, making sure there were no holes…I worked on this almost exclusively for an entire month. It’s great to know all that work paid off and one of the reviewers noticed.

Regarding the cons, though, I feel like the reviewer is off the mark. I had predicted outcomes, under a bolded “Hypothesis” heading just to make sure it wasn’t missed, but he somehow missed both predicted outcomes of my experiments. And as for the reiteration…I have 2 pages. 2. Pages. There’s not even space for my name. How does anyone expect me to have space to reiterate anything? And stemming from that, there’s no way I could fit a third project in there. It’s a good idea, and I’ll be sure to acknowledge my anonymous GRFP reviewer if I ever write a paper on it, but…please….there’s only so much I can squeeze into this thing. I can’t give you a thesis’ worth of work. It’s impossible. Can’t my two complete, independent projects that involve at least four separate disciplines be enough?

Reviewer #2 BI: 

  • Pros: developing a useful tool for the future and exceptional outreach approaches
  • Cons: no target audience, goals or objectives

Exceptional outreach approaches. 🙂

Well, the target audience for a tool would be the field of research which would use the tool. I don’t think I said that explicitly, but I do feel like that’s a pretty well understood idea in general. You don’t make a dental hygiene tool and then market it to construction project managers.

I didn’t really have a goal or objective. In my opinion, this is the first fair critique he’s given me. It’s a brand new system and I’m not sure what I could do with it beyond my own research, how I could market it to people not in my field, nor to what effect. I didn’t then and I don’t now.

Reviewer #3 IM: 

  • Pros: diverse background with a lot of training with a lot of success, will likely lead to innovation, outstanding potential
  • Cons: maybe a risky bet

Well, it’s great that he thinks I’ve achieved remarkable results each time I’ve done something. I disagree with the “remarkable” bit, but that was a flattering review. Interesting to note here that he didn’t comment at all on the project itself. His comments were all about my background and that with my track record, I’ll probably be pretty successful. But then he does a 180 and says that I might not achieve anything. Why? You have no reason to think that. You literally just commented that my track record is spotless. I truly don’t understand.

Reviewer #3 BI: 

  • Pros: none
  • Cons: no explicit ideas about how the work has broader impacts, just the boring “dissemination” routine

No pros? There’s absolutely nothing positive you can say about my devotion to science communication? There’s nothing you can say about me using a new model that will have broad impacts (hint hint) on my field of research? Seriously?

In the research statement, I said I would disseminate (of course), and that I would use my model to mentor students interested in interdisciplinary work and as a means of education in science communication. But yeah, this touches on reviewer #2’s comments of not having a specific goal for using my research in broader impacts. I said I’ll use it in a couple of different ways, but not what I hope to accomplish.

What a stark contrast between reviewer #2 and reviewer #3, though. Straight from “exceptional outreach approaches” to “boring dissemination routine”. Ain’t no business like show business science.

In conclusion, I feel like only one of the critiques I received was justified (no goals for BI), and that the others were either unjustified (and what they sought was in there, they just didn’t read it) or unreasonable (given the limitations of the submission).  The reviewers had differing opinions about my broader impacts, specifically. I honestly have no clue what reviewer #3 thought about my proposed science, but reviewers #1 and #2 seemed to like the projects I have planned, and that’s cool.

The silver lining is that my reviews improved over last year’s, and that’s what I’m going to take away from this. I improved as a writer and as a scientist. Even if I didn’t get the external validation from the NSF, that knowledge is worth something.

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So, how does not receiving the NSF GRFP affect my life? In a word: hardly.

The stipend for OEB students is above the GRFP stipend. Had I received it, OEB would have made up the difference to the original stipend amount (with the NSF paying about 75% of it) and I would have only been required to teach 3 semesters over the six years I’m guaranteed funding.

Now that I haven’t received it, I’m required to teach six semesters over the six years, unless I apply for and receive some other external fellowship, which I might do. That’s it. That’s the only change to my life. I get more experience teaching, which, given my aspirations to be a professor, is probably a good thing.

I didn’t get what I wanted, but I might just get what I need.

Cheers,

Z

P.S. Out of the six OEB students who applied (4 G1s and 2 G2s), only one G2 student got it and she should have received it as a first year. I truly don’t understand why they made her apply twice.

P.P.S. If you read my RP and PS, I’m open to receiving your comments, too. Feedback is always welcome.

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