NORDP 2016 Conference Report: Abstracts cannot be abstract

This post is part of our NORDP 2016 Conference Reports. These reports capture the take-home points from a variety of sessions presented at the NORDP Annual Meeting in Orlando.

Session Scribe: Angie Shotts

Abstracts Cannot Be Abstract: Crafting the Grant Proposal’s Sales Pitch

Presenter: Robert Porter 

Key points from the session:

  • Reviewers decide within the first 1-2 pages if a proposal will be funded. The decision is fast and can be based on 1-2 paragraphs.
  • The NIH Specific Aims, NSF Project overview, etc. should be understandable to the Research Development professional – use this to determine if jargon is present. This applies to all funding agencies. Accessible language is critical.
  • Include something that will surprise the reviewers in the beginning and get their attention.
  • The best proposals/abstracts teach the reviewers something they don’t know.
  • The abstract should: 1) get their attention; 2) explain why the status quo must change; 3) explain why the idea proposed will work.
  • Spend the most amount of time improving the abstract. It is the sales pitch.

What did you hear at this presentation that surprised you?

When working with a faculty member who is not focusing on the sales pitch portion of the proposal, ask “How long does it take you to decide if a student’s paper will get a C or an A?”

What resources did you discover at this presentation?

The NORDP website has an additional presentation by Robert Porter, “Thinking Like a Grant Reviewer: Know the Score!” on the NORDP website.

What else from this session should NORDP members know?

This presentation has a 3-paragraph template that can serve as a useful guide for research development professionals and PIs.


Author: Julie Rogers

Research Development Associate, Oregon Health & Science University

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