Last year I applied for NSF’s Postdoc utilizing museum collections, the first year for that particular competition. My colleagues have started asking for advice on applying, so I went to NSF’s awards website and saw the types of projects they funded. I summarize a few results below.
In 2015, there were 56 proposals submitted and 27 funded (48% funding rate). The break down based on priority was:
- High: 7
- Medium: 10
- Low: 22
- Do Not Fund: 17
I think there is some good news in here for us young researchers who may not understand how funding works. Specifically, it was not only the High Priority proposals that were funded, there must have been Medium and Low Priority proposals also funded.
Of the funded proposals 18 focused on vertebrates (birds: 8; mammals: 4), 4 on invertebrates, 4 on plants, and 1 was very difficult to tell the focal species.
Since museum collections lend themselves to both genomic approaches and studies of morphometrics, I counted the number of proposals that mentioned each technique. Based on the abstracts, 54% of will use genomics, and 15% will collect morphometric data. I would say these are minimum estimates as some abstracts were unclear.
Finally, I counted the number of museums that each proposal would partner. On average, funded proposals will work with 2.7 museums (range 1-6), although seven abstracts did not report number of partner museums. This is critical in the writing stage as you will need a letter of support from each museum partner.
Of course none of these stats suggest how to frame an interesting and relevant question that utilizes museum collections. I present them simply as a snapshot of what was funded the first year of this unique postdoc.