Hints and Information for Writing General User Proposals
NSLS accepts general user proposals three times a year. Our next deadline is January 31, 2012.
To increase your chance of success in being allocated beamtime, please consider the guidance we offer below to assist you in writing higher-quality proposals.
- Identify your primary research goal, and its impact, early in the proposal.
- Assume the reviewer of your proposal is insanely busy.
- Focus on getting your point across succinctly. Make the proposal a coherent, whole document, include figures, and avoid repetition.
- The NSLS proposal system invites you to provide short pieces of text in several “sections”: Abstract, Scientific Importance, Research Description, Proposed Work in the Requested Cycle, etc. While the topics of these sections have some overlap, it is not appropriate to put substantially the same text into more than one section (a too-frequent practice). The whole proposal should flow together and make your case, like you would in a seminar or publication.
- In the abstract or introduction, describe the importance of your science in broad terms such that a scientist from any discipline can understand. Also include the “Societal Impact” of your experiment (reviewers appreciate this).
- Describe the experimental protocol well, including the steps and the goals of your experiment. Include details of samples to be measured and of your experimental setup, if non-standard.
- Describe other measurements that have been made on these samples.
- If you’ve had beamtime before, include the most relevant data collected so far.
- Be specific about the beamline requirements, referring to the beamline guide to make sure that your selected beamline(s) meet these requirements. Beamline guide: http://beamlines.ps.bnl.gov/
- Account for the time for which you are requesting.
- Include a section on analysis, what the expected outcome is and how that is related to the scientific problem and question to be addressed.
- Give relevant literature references (don’t attach a CV or PDFs of publications).
- Mention a training class, if you’ve taken one.
- If you are a student or postdoc, indicate this. List yourself as PI (not your advisor), and write the proposal yourself (with help from advisor/senior students).
- List a second-choice beamline (and third, if you can).
- Consult with a beamline scientist and/or your collaborators before submitting the proposal.
Costs and Funding
- Beamtime is free if the work is non-proprietary and will be published in open literature. You do need to pay your own travel expenses, however.
- General User Experiment Proposals are not funding proposals. Where funding proposals are intended to convince an agency that their money will be well spent in pursuit of your science, a General User proposal is about convincing the reviewer that the time you need will be well used.
- Proposal scores work like golf scores: 1 is the best, 5 is the worst.
- It generally takes about a month to receive your score on a new proposal.
- At NSLS, a proposal that isn’t awarded time will have its score improved by 0.3. It will then re-compete each cycle until awarded time (after time is awarded, the score reverts back to the original). You need to submit a beamtime request that you want the time the next cycle.
- General User Proposals are active for 6 cycles or 2 years.
- To get more beamtime, submit a “beamtime request” for additional time (NOT a new proposal)
- To continue work, copy-and-paste an old proposal to start a new one.
- Most beamlines are oversubscribed, so it may take more than one cycle to get beamtime. You may also receive less time than you ask for.
- With practice, the General User system gets easier. Everyone involved wants you to succeed!
— Kathleen Nasta, Photon Sciences User Administration; and Bruce Ravel, NIST