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Thread: NSF Graduate Research Fellowship

  1. #1
    Within my grasp! Icculus's Avatar
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    NSF Graduate Research Fellowship

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    Ok -- so I want to write an application for the NSF GRFP... however, the project I have in mind involve conducting an RCT (which requires a serious amount of money). Has anyone written an NSF GRFP proposal for a project that is essentially infeasible without further funding/support? I think the research idea is fine and I understand how to implement RCTs, however, the dolla dolla bills necessary to do the project would involve writing another grant.

    Is the NSF more about writing a good proposal than writing a proposal that you can actually follow through on? I can't imagine some of the science folks have access to the funds they need either... but I'm curious if anyone has experience with my particular situation.
    Last edited by Icculus; 08-28-2013 at 12:50 PM. Reason: Startz was a grammar Nazi.

  2. #2
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    Yes, you can write a proposal that is infeasible without extra funding. (You might not want to propose something overly grand, however.)

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    Within my grasp! Icculus's Avatar
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    Ok -- cool. It is not overly grand, it is just that data collection in less-developed countries is expensive.

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    If it's way too pie in the sky, as in nobody would ever fund it unless you were already a notable mid-career economist who could PI a huge team of post-docs, then it could count against you. Otherwise you should be ok, because the focus is on clear-headed and insightful research question and design.

    Overall, they're really looking to hit hard on the broader impacts. Sell it.


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    Within my grasp! Icculus's Avatar
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    Ok.. This is what I thought. I'm not trying to do anything too extravagant. It is more just that the research design itself is expensive.. Because well field work costs money!

    The beauty of development economics is that it is focused on broader impacts - frankly it is why I want to become an economist.

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    Great! You're all set up. Then let the broader impacts flow from the strength of your idea itself. As long as it's a study that someone would reasonably fund, you're good. A proposal to do something that would be a trivial addition to literature, and very expensive, is I think the only thing that will make you look stupid.


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    Within my grasp! Icculus's Avatar
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    Great advice.. I agree completely.

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    Within my grasp! ms484's Avatar
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    I feel like OPs question is mostly answered, so I am going to ask another question about the NSF. (Sorry)

    How committed to your project do you have to be? I was under the impression that they looked more at your skills in writing a proposal and thinking about economics. Applying to different schools means different potential advisors which will make different projects....

    What I want to do is write a proposal that is an offshoot of my masters thesis. Because I am writing a lot about it now, I know a lot. However, I would really like to do my dissertation and future graduate research in a different subsubfield of the subfield I am in (environmental economics).

    tl;dr: Can I write a proposal for the NSF and then do something different when I get to phd programs?

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    There is no follow-up commitment to any subfield or proposed study. Notably, that's usually how anything called a fellowship works -- it's just money and a vote of confidence to the intellectual community that you're worth talking to and have resources for research.


  10. #10
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    Happened to check in and glad I did.

    I got the NSF last year writing a development economics research proposal. I think they might actually like 'pie in the sky' concepts (within reason). I think since no one expects you to do the proposal the more important part is to show creativity and original thought in approaching a problem. If you are thinking a lot about data collection I might be concerned...the data side should be a line or two in my mind to explain what you would collect and why it would help test your ideas. Most any researcher could great new papers with great new data so just make sure the research design offers something original, in my opinion, originality would be MORE important than feasibility. This is not the proposal to play it safe on.

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