The silly season is upon us

Spring is in the air – after a fairly rough winter the local temps have climbed into the 60sF and 70sF rather abruptly and yet immediately there were people in shorts and diners at outdoor cafes. Amazing. And it doesn’t matter if it gets cold again or even if it snows… winter is on its last legs. For many private funders another reliable harbinger of spring are proposal-application deadlines. In other posts I have mentioned a common trap for funders is becoming disappointed with expected outcomes partially due to the mismatch of those expectations with what was actually done (the design of programs and the scope of the grants). A similar trap can befall the application process – mismatching application guidelines with the funder’s funding priorities. A foundation may want to “change the direction of a field” and thinks it will accomplish that with a fellowship training program requiring the fellow to be at a top-ranked (read status quo) laboratory. SImilarly, funders will ask for “outside the box” ideas and then require a detailed research proposal as though novel ideas come wrapped in 3 linear specific aims and a to-the-penny detailed budget.

Researchers attempt to parse the guidelines and try to figure out how to make what it is that they do look like what it appears the funders want. Funders get cold feet when faced with novelty and go with the safer bet. And so the silly season wears on with everyone frustrated and stressed.