Monday, May 02, 2005

Sometimes, you pick a wildcard

A few weeks ago, I was whinging about the fact that I didn't get the NSF Fellowship I applied for. Well, I'm about to whinge some more. You've been warned.

I finally had a chance to look at my "ratings sheets" ie what the 3 reviewers who read my application had to say. It looks like they were asked to comment on two aspects of my application: intellectual merit and "broader impacts"; for each aspect, they had to rate my application [Excellent, Very Good, Good, Less Competitive] and provide a couple of lines of written commentary to ground their assessment.

Here is the raw data:
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Intellectual Merit Criterion: Demonstrated intellectual ability and other accepted requisites for scholarly scientific study, such as the ability (1) to plan and conduct research (2) to work as a member of a team as well as independently; and (3) to interpret and communicate research findings.

Reviewer 1:
Overall assessment: very good.
Basis for assessment: More information about why research plan is important would be useful. More publications related to research could strengthen application.

Reviewer 2:
Overall assessment: good
Basis for assessment: plans for both research and education should have been presented. This is a dramatic shift in career paths. Where do you plan to end up -- researcher/professor/back in industry ?

Reviewer 3:
Overall assessment: excellent
Basis for assessment: Strong, well-written plan. Background experiences suggest strong potential for success.

Broader Impacts Criterion: Contributions that (1) effectively integrate research and education at all levels, infuse learning with the excitement of discovery, and assure that the findings and methods of research are communicated in a broad context and to a large audience; (2) encourage diversity, broaden opportunities, and enable the participation of all citizens -- women and men, underrepresented minorities and persons with disabilities -- in science and research; (3) enhance scientific and technical understanding; and (4) benefit society

Reviewer 1:
Overall assessment: Excellent
Basis for assessment: Strong committment to mentoring and recruiting students.

Reviewer 2:
Overall assessment: Less competitive
Basis for assessment: The learning aspects of your application need to be expanded. You will need to have a better understanding of basic cell (etc.) physiology ...

Reviewer 3:
Overall assessment: Very good
Basis for assessment: Background & life experiences suggest potential to contribute to these goals.
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So, two reviewers put me in the top half and one of them puts me in the bottom half. Well, as Jules Winnfield says in "Pulp Fiction", allow me to retort, especially to reviewer 2 [because, of course, I totally agree with reviewers 1 and 3 ;-)]:

"Plans for both research and education should have been presented. This is a dramatic shift in career paths. Where do you plan to end up -- researcher/professor/back in industry ?"

Uhm, did [s]he miss the section titled "Integrating research and education" in my second essay, with the title underlined ? And, yes, it's a dramatic career shift, but what does where I want to end up have to do with anything ?

"
The learning aspects of your application need to be expanded. You will need to have a better understanding of basic cell (etc.) physiology ..."

I don't even know what is meant by "learning aspects", since that phrase doesn't occur anywhere in the application. But, more to the point -- what exactly does [s]he know about what I know about "basic cell physiology" ? Diddly-squat, that's what. The biology aspects of my research plan were pretty damn solid, even if I do say so myself.

Ah well, it's all water under the bridge now. At least I now have a better appreciation for the fact that the application process is pretty random, confirming what a couple of professors that I've talked to told me. Maybe they should discard the outliers, or ask for another opinion.

And I think that reviewer 2 should go boil his/her head.

1 Comments:

Blogger Corey said...

Without reading your application, I have faith that you answered what was questioned of you, plus added information you found worthwhile. I find it rather annoying for people (managers, for instance) to pick apart something that was not spelled out, asked of, measured, etc, and then hold it against you. Frankly, it's ghey. That's pronounced guh-hey.

Even with the short comments, I don't see how the denial was explained at all. You're smart and black, and so they should just give you what you want. =) I say appeal - and if they have questions, to call me. I'll set 'em straight.

2:47 PM  

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