- Keep in mind that reviewers may have to read many proposals. They are appreciative of a proposal that is concise and clear, even to someone in another field. Stay away from discipline-specific jargon and address the proposal to a panel of broad-based expertise and interests. Write in a simple and straightforward manner, i.e., state your case as you would to a colleague in a close but not exactly the same discipline or field.
- Use a simple format. We do not specify what format should be used, but apply common sense. Keep the project plan as short as possible. Observe the page limits and do not try to cram 20 pages of text into ten. Use 11-12 point font, preferably a standard font such as Arial or Times New Roman. Stay away from prettier but harder-to-read fonts. The reviewers are interested in the content of the text, not how it looks, and you don’t want the text to be distracting. Also, use at least 1 inch margins and, if possible, break up the text with subheaders. The reviewers will be grateful for anything that makes it easier on their eyes.
- Put yourself in the reviewers’ place. They will know nothing about your research and may need some basic background as to why your proposed project is important. On the whole, review committees are enthusiastic and excited about the proposals and are more than willing to give applicants the benefit of the doubt. But don’t leave them guessing as to what the project is about or how it will benefit anything.
- What academic questions will your project address? If this is a research project, make sure that the basic research questions are clearly outlined. In turn, show how the research will address these questions.
- What is the long-term benefit beyond the initial support for an exhibit or performance? For projects in the arts, explain what will be accomplished, not only directly by the project but in the long-term in terms of advancing your field of study. Review committees will be looking for the benefits to students or colleagues or educational programs beyond the actual event. Keep in mind that all the UC MEXUS programs are for seed funding, so the review committees are looking to see what the event, exhibit, or performance will lead to.
- What is the long-term benefit beyond the initial support for a meeting or conference? Review committees are not usually wild about meetings that are, in and of themselves, the final goal, especially with the seed grant program goals of the UC MEXUS programs. They are much more enthusiastic about a meeting that helps launch or define a future research agenda or collaborative exchange with Mexico. So for meetings and conferences, explain what will happen after the event, in terms of long-term benefits for the advancement of science or scholarship in your field, and how the event is then critical for getting this going.
- Include a time-line so that reviewers can get an idea of whether your project is feasible and not overly-ambitious. It is fine to have an ambitious project, but you might want to consider proposing a smaller section of it that will allow you to embark on the more far-reaching program.
- Make sure that all participants' roles are clearly defined. Reviewers look at whether the P.I.s are truly involved or whether they are “fronting” the proposal for someone who is not eligible, such as a student or non-UC colleague. At the same time, reviewers welcome additional participation from students and colleagues, UC or not, as long as it is clear what their roles are and that the P.I. is indeed leading the project.
- Don’t" name drop" as the crux of your proposal. It is great to have distinguished people involved, and their participation should be duly noted. However, let the body of the proposal ride on the worth of what will be undertaken rather than on the names of the people involved. Reviewers tend to be put off by "trust me" proposals because, while they want to trust the P.I., they also want to know what project they are putting their trust into.
- Let reviewers know about any student involvement. A project that includes student training and advancement is always a plus.
- Make your methodology clear, in terms of outlining and explaining exactly what you will be doing with the funds if your project is selected. Be specific about where you will undertake the study and with whom. How will your methodology help resolve your research questions.
- Address any specific protocol concerns, such as human subjects reviews, collecting permits, patents, intellectual property rights, etc. Let the reviewers know that you are aware of these and have obtained the necessary permits, review approvals, etc. or are in the process of doing so.
- For projects in Mexico, make sure it is clear that you are collaborating with someone in Mexico or working with a Mexican institution. Review committees can have a negative response to a project that they feel is using Mexico as a field site rather than as a source of academic collaboration.
- Make your budget clear and readable to the average person, not just financial accountants. Review committees and the UC MEXUS administration look closely at the budgets to see if they relate to the project goals and methods. Provide clear justification for the use of the funds. If the project has matching or additional funds from other sources, make it clear what portion of the budget are targeted for UC MEXUS support. Keep the items in the specified categories (e.g., salaries, benefits, supplies and services, other) and be sure that the items all add up to what you have in the total. Yes, review committee members often add these up to see if they match, and if they don’t, we do!
- Make sure that all expenses are allowable. The goals of the requirements are to stay not only within UC and/or CONACYT policies but also to have the funds spent on the research, not equipment, tuition, or academic payroll obligations. So while some items may be technically “allowable,” review committees may consider the overall intent of the budget in their evaluations.
- Do not break down an expensive equipment piece into less expensive parts. The committees can figure out that a motherboard, keyboard, and monitor add up to a computer.
- Let us know why this is a good seed grant project and provide a long-term plan. Give a brief explanation of how the project will continue past the project period, including plans to apply for other sources of funding. Review committees look closely at whether the project will, in fact, seed something over the long-term and whether it is likely to be successful in continuing and obtaining future funding.
- Check for local deadlines at your campus or institution. Contact the UC campus research office and, in the case of UC MEXUS-CONACYT proposals, the appropriate Mexican administrative office well ahead of time to be sure that there are not internal deadlines for your institution’s review of the proposal prior to the UC MEXUS submission deadlines.
- Make sure all the necessary signatures are included. This includes the Institutional Approval Forms or any institutional signatures indicated on the application forms. Do not waive them as "not applicable" to your proposal. If they are part of the form for that program, they are applicable and required!
- Make sure all letters of intention and curriculum vitae are included and that they are hard copies, on letterhead, with original signatures. Emails and faxes are not acceptable. If you list someone as an additional academic participant, then you must include a letter of intent and short c.v. for them, even if they will not be using any of the funds directly.
- Submit the proposal packet by the deadline. Late or incomplete proposals, faxes, or e-mail attachments are not accepted. The proposal must be physically in the UC MEXUS offices by 5:00 p.m. on the day of the deadline. A proposal that is postmarked on that day but received later will not be accepted.
- Retain a copy of all application materials submitted. UC MEXUS will not provide you or your department with a copy of your own proposal. Make sure you keep a copy for yourself and also for your department administrator. If your project is selected for funding, it greatly facilitates the grant process if the department administrator has a copy of your proposal and budget in hand.
If you are applying to the UC MEXUS (“Faculty”) Grants Program, you might want to take some of the following areas into consideration when writing your proposal:
- Appropriateness of the proposed project to the goals of UC MEXUS
– including whether the subject of the proposal falls within one of the areas of interest to UC MEXUS and whether it fits within the seed funding goals of the program. The program is intended to provide support for projects that will outgrow UC MEXUS and go on for more substantial, long-term support from the home campus and/or outside funding agencies. Questions to be considered include: Is there some connection to Mexico or Mexican-origin populations in terms of topic, collaboration, and/or critical issues? Do the proposed activities lead to development of major, long-term collaborations with strong potential for extramural funding? In the case of conferences, will they be used as a springboard for more long-term programs of research or academic exchange? If appropriate, are they truly binational in nature? Does the project involve new creative works; innovative binational instruction or new intercampus courses? And will it lead strengthening of academic and research capabilities of UC or Mexican institutions; and/or postgraduate and graduate student training?
- Quality of the Proposal:
How is your proposal overall in terms of the clarity, quality, and feasibility of the research? Reviewers look closely at the research protocols, including any cultural factors affecting the involvement of human subjects and non-academic participants. Are the research questions clear? Is it evident that the P.I. is well-prepared to undertake the proposed work? Are the roles of additional academic participants clearly defined? Is the methodology appropriate for the project goals? Is the project likely to achieve its initial goals within the 12 month period and are there specific plans for continuing beyond the end of the project period? How are students involved, if at all? Additional consideration is given to whether the budget is reasonable, justified, and appropriate for the proposed research. If collaboration with Mexican institutions is indicated, reviewers evaluate the evidence of meaningful participation by the Mexican collaborators in the intellectual contributions to the project.
- Significance of the Proposed Work:
What might be the importance of the proposed project’s public service objectives for California and/or Mexican society and for the advancement of scholarships in the discipline, including the potential for bringing extramural funding into the University of California? Is the project likely to establish new and important academic programs or strengths in UC or Mexican institutions? Does the project address a critical new area of investigation? Are UC and/or Mexican students involved in ways which maximize the training potential of research activities?
If you are applying to the UC MEXUS Dissertation Research Grants Program, you might want to take some of the following areas into consideration when writing your proposal:
- Appropriateness of the proposed project to the goals of UC MEXUS
–including whether the subject of the proposal falls within one of the areas of interest to UC MEXUS (this include projects in the natural and physical sciences that will be undertaken in Mexico) and whether the proposed project will support activities directly applicable to the completion of the doctoral dissertation (or MFA). Is it clear that you have progressed to a point at which dissertation research support is likely to be effective?
- Quality of the Proposal:
How is your proposal overall in terms of the clarity, quality, and feasibility of the research? Are the research questions clear? Does the proposal provide a good description of what will be done during the project period? Is the methodology appropriate to the research objectives and questions? Is the project overly ambitious or too limited? Have you done the necessary background research to adequately prepare for the proposed research? Is the project feasible within the proposed time frame, at least to the point that the student is likely to complete the dissertation? Reviewers look closely at the research protocols, including any cultural factors affecting the involvement of human subjects and non-academic participants. Additional consideration is given to whether the budget is reasonable, justified, and appropriate for the proposed research and also the probability of successful performance by the student. If applicable, are you prepared to undertake fieldwork in Mexico and have you included the required evidence of affiliation or collaboration with Mexican academic institutions and/or researchers?
- Significance of the Proposed Work:
What might be the importance of the proposed project’s public service objectives for California and/or Mexican society and for the advancement of scholarship in the discipline? Include whether the project is likely to yield significant new scholarship and, if applicable, whether it will establish lasting ties between the student and Mexican colleagues or institutions.
If you are applying to the UC MEXUS Small Grants Program, you might want to take some of the following areas into consideration when writing your proposal:
- How well do the proposed activities fit with the goals of the program,
–i.e., to provide support for short, one-time needs that fit within the UC MEXUS mandate to foster research in Mexico-related studies and/or UC-Mexico collaboration?
- Is the research proposal clear, feasible, and well-planned?
Are the proposed activities appropriate for the project? Are there any ethical or protocol concerns that need to be addressed, such as human subjects reviews, collecting permits, patents, etc.? Are the additional academic participants roles clearly outlined and are they supportive (as per their letters of intent)?
- What is the significance of the proposed project for society and for the advancement of scholarship in the discipline(s)?
Are there any long-term plans past the project period? Will UC MEXUS grant support yield anything beyond actualizing the proposed activities?
If you are applying to the UC MEXUS-CONACYT Collaborative Grants Program, you might want to take some of the following areas into consideration when writing your proposal:
- Appropriateness of the proposed project to the goals of the UC MEXUS-CONACYT collaborative program
This particular grants program has two main objectives. One is to support beginning projects in the phase where the researchers are pulling together the initial data and research framework needed to prepare a proposal or prospectus for more long-term support from their institutions or larger funding agencies such as NSF or other CONACYT programs. The second goal is foster research collaborations between the University of California and Mexican institutions that allow innovative research which will benefit from the synergy of a binational research team. As a result, it is important that the proposal indicates how the activities will lead to development of major, long-term collaborations with strong potential for creating permanent linkages between UC campuses and Mexican institutions. Are plans presented for continuation of the project past the initial 18-month project period? Is there a potential and likelihood for long-term funding from institutional or extramural sources? Does the project really need the program’s funding, or is it past the seed phase with a strong likelihood of receiving extramural funds in any case? Or is it in too preliminary a phase to be able to have concrete results at the end of the project period?
- Qualities of collaboration:
Reviewers are asked to look closely at the parity of the collaboration and work proposed. Is there evidence of equal intellectual contributions from both sides and equal interest, input, and commitment from the Co-P.I.s? It is not necessary that the benefits or funds of the collaborative work are equally distributed between the two institutions; for example, the Co-P.I.s may agree to collaborate in the development of a new graduate program at one institution or the other, but the Co-P.I.s’ respective level of involvement in the project should be reasonably distributed. Are the roles of the Co-P.I.s and the additional academic participants well-defined and do their areas of expertise complement each other? Are there specific plans for continuation and/or expansion of the collaboration after the project period ends?
- Quality of the Proposal:
How is your proposal overall in terms of the clarity, quality, and feasibility of the research? Reviewers look closely at the research protocols, including any cultural factors affecting the involvement of human subjects and non-academic participants. Are the research questions clear? Are the P.I.s well-prepared to undertake the proposed work? Is the methodology appropriate for the project goals? Is the project likely to achieve its initial goals within the 18 month period and are there specific plans for continuing beyond the end of the project period? Are UC and/or Mexican students involved in ways which maximize the training potential of research activities? Additional consideration is given to whether the budget is reasonable, justified, and appropriate for the proposed research.
- Significance of the Proposed Work:
What might be the importance of the proposed project’s objectives for the advancement of science and scholarship, the development of new lines of scientific inquiry, the establishment of new formal programs in graduate education, the resolution of critical problems of importance to Mexico and the United States, or other unique potentials of the project? Is the project likely to establish new and important academic programs or strengths in UC or Mexican institutions? Are UC and/or Mexican students involved in ways which maximize the training potential of research activities?
If you are applying to the UC MEXUS-CONACYT Postdoctoral Programs, you should take the following areas into consideration when writing your proposal:
- Appropriateness of the proposed project to the goals of UC MEXUS-CONACYT postdoctoral program
Are there clear and likely benefits to the proposed postdoctoral stay? Will the applicant learn new techniques and skills and have access to facilities and equipment that might not otherwise be available at their home institution or within their home country? Does he or she plan to take advantage of learning opportunities (e.g., seminars, structured group meetings, contact with scholars) at the host institution? To what extent is the proposed stay necessary to the applicant’s career at this point in time?
- Qualifications of the applicant and host:
Does the applicant have the potential to succeed at the proposed stay? Will the applicant’s prior experience, combined with this postdoctoral residency, be likely to advance them toward an independent research career? Is there a good fit between the host’s and applicant’s areas of research? Does the host seem committed to actively overseeing this postdoctoral researcher’s project? Does the host demonstrate enthusiasm for the applicant’s research? How likely is it that the host will have regular communication with the postdoctoral candidate?
- Quality of the proposal:
How is the proposal overall in terms of the clarity, quality, and feasibility of the proposed activities related to the fellowship stay? Reviewers consider the originality of the proposed project, as well as its relevance and impact, and any additional activities that would enhance the candidate's academic development (international seminars, courses, congresses, etc.). Is there a clear explanation of the need for pursuing the fellowship goals and objectives? Have you clearly discussed the research and/or academic activities you intend to undertake during your fellowship stay?
- Significance of the proposed work:
What is the importance of the proposed project’s objectives for the transfer of knowledge and technology, advancement of science and scholarship, development of new lines of scientific inquiry, establishment of new formal programs in graduate education, resolution of critical problems of importance to Mexico and the United States, or other unique potential outcomes of larger significance from the project?