Graduate Student Research Grants

Information for Research Grant Advisors

from the Committee on Research Grants

The Committee would like to clarify the role of advisors in the preparation of research grant applications by students under their supervision. One of the main intents of the GSA grants program is that the preparation of a research proposal should be an educational experience for the student. The funds available through GSA are modest, and seldom determine whether or not a project is actually completed. Rather, learning how to prepare a proposal, and thereby learning about the scientific method, is as important to the student's long-term development as is the acquisition of funding. For this reason, the Committee feels strongly that a disservice is done to a student if an advisor writes a proposal for her/him. The Committee recognizes that there are students for whom English is a second language. The legitimate role of an advisor is to make suggestions and criticize a student's proposal as it is revised. The proposal must, however, originate with and be the product of, the student's research, just as a thesis or dissertation must be. A student who has independently prepared a proposal that is funded by GSA receives a special satisfaction that s/he has accomplished one of the important tasks of a scientist, namely, convincing other scientists that her/his research is worthy of financial support. Help your advisees accomplish this, but don't write the proposal for them, or allow them to copy portions of research proposals prepared for other funding agencies like NSF! See note on the bottom of page four of the application.

A separate matter needing clarification is that GSA awards are clearly intended for support of the research presented in the proposal during the year of the award. Any delay in use of the funds or any change in the research proposal must be approved by GSA before the money is used for different purposes. Otherwise, the award will be canceled.

These two matters are of concern not because transgressions are numerous, but because they particularly run counter to the goals of the Research Grants Program. A few isolated instances of abuse or misunderstanding have occurred, and the Committee felt that clarification was needed. The Committee welcomes your comments and suggestions in our continuing efforts to improve an already excellent program for the benefit of your students and our science.