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2020 NSF CAREER Writing Workshop

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The NSF CAREER program typically expects to fund 450 proposals from approximately 3,000 applicants. To succeed, proposals must rank in the top 10 to 15 percent.

Want to increase your chances of success? Participate in KU’s 2020 CAREER Writing Workshop.

Brought to you by the KU Office of Research and the Bremner Editing Center in the KU School of Journalism, the program will provide strategies and tips for writing competitive CAREER proposals from CAREER Award winners and former NSF program officers, highlight potential educational-plan partners at KU, and explore the use of advanced writing techniques and partner review for enhancing proposal clarity and persuasiveness.


Crafting a competitive CAREER proposal requires dedication, craft and nuance. You’ll be competing against your peers, a group that’s already succeeded through many years of rigorous selection. In this context, a solid research plan is necessary, but not sufficient.

Successful CAREER awards integrate research and education plans and demonstrate excellence in both: They’re expected to present a career-development plan, not merely a research proposal. While no amount of grantsmanship can rescue a weak concept, clear and compelling presentation can propel an innovative and well-balanced plan across the funding line. In this workshop, we will provide strategies and tips for writing competitive CAREER proposals from CAREER Award winners and former NSF program officers, highlight potential educational-plan partners at KU, and explore the use of advanced writing techniques and partner review for enhancing proposal clarity and persuasiveness.

Workshop format

The workshop consists of two parts: seminars and the workshop cohort. Seminars are sessions open to anyone interested in applying for a CAREER grant; they cover all aspects of the CAREER process. The workshop is an intensive, peer-centered set of meetings intended to help participants refine and polish all aspects of their CAREER proposals. Participants in the cohort will get detailed review and specific feedback according to a strict timeline; as such, the cohort is limited to 10 participants.

2020 CAREER Workshop Schedule

Legend: Yellow=Seminar, Blue=Cohort Meeting/Activity, Red=Cohort Deadline

Spring 2020

Unless otherwise noted, seminars meet 11 a.m. - 12 p.m. in the Dean's Conference Room, Eaton Hall. Seminars are open to everyone; cohort meetings and deadlines are only for the workshop cohort. The cohort application deadline has passed.

Date Programming or Deadline
Jan. 30  Seminar | Simply Engaging: Crafting Clear, Concise Prose
Lisa McLendon, Journalism
Jan. 31 Complete narrative first draft due
Feb. 6 Edited pages due (either Summary page or first page of narrative)
Feb. 20 Seminar | Previous CAREER Winners Panel Discussion
Juan Bravo-Suarez, Chemical & Petroleum Engineering
Huazhen Fang, Mechanical Engineering
Suzanne Shontz, Electrical Engineering & Computer Science
Leigh Stearns, Geology
Marina Suarez, Geology
Feb. 20 Summary/first-page edits returned to cohort
Feb. 27 Cohort meeting
Summary/First-page read-and-critique roundtable
March 5 Cohort meeting
Second Summary/ First page read-and-critique rountable
March 19 Cohort meeting
Full-proposal Rountable #1: Cohort members present research and educational plans to group, get constructive feedback
March 26 Cohort meeting
Full-proposal Rountable #2

NOTE Room Change: 119 Stauffer Flint

April 2 Cohort meeting
Full-proposal Rountable #3
April 9 Cohort meeting
Full-proposal Rountable #4
April 16 Cohort meeting
Full-proposal Rountable #5
April 23 Seminar: Incorporating Proposal Feedback
Carol Burdsal, Director of Research Development, Office of Research
April 23 Partner Proposal Exchange

Turn in proposals for exchange with a cohort partner

April 30 Cohort meeting
Workshop Wrap-up
April 30 Partner critiques due 
May/June PEER Review
Submit proposals to external subject-matter experts for feedback
July 27 Submit Proposals to NSF

Fall 2019

Seminars meet from 9:30 - 10:30 a.m. in the Dean's Conference Room, Eaton Hall

Date Programming or Deadline
Nov. 15 Seminar | CAREER Overview and Strategy Tips
Ward Lyles, Urban Planning, CAREER winner (change from original schedule)
Nov. 22 Seminar | Insider Perspectives: Program Officer Panel
Ted Bergman, Mechanical Engineering
Joane Nagel, Sociology
Leonard Krishstalka, Ecology & Evolutionary Biology
Dec. 6 Cohort application materials due
Dec. 6 Seminar | Incorporating Educational Activities into Grant Proposals
Ward Lyles, CTE Ambassador/CAREER winner
Alison Olcott, Center for Undergraduate Research
Teresa MacDonald, Associate Director, Public Programs, KU Biodiversity Institute
Dec. 13 Cohort applicants notified of selection status
Dec - Jan Write or revise a complete draft for spring session of the workshop

How to Apply

NSF CAREER-eligible applicants can request a spot in the workshop cohort by completing the online application form no later than Friday, Dec. 6, 2019. The application should include a Summary Page for the applicant’s CAREER project prepared according to the requirements of the current NSF CAREER solicitation and the 2019 NSF Proposal & Award Policies & Procedures Guide (PAPPG).

This one-page summary should contain a project overview and a description of the project’s intellectual merits and broader impacts, as detailed in the PAPPG. If more than 10 applications are received, the submitted Summary pages may influence applicant selection. These Summary pages (or the first page of the proposal narrative) will receive detailed feedback during the workshop.


By accepting a cohort position, you are committing to completing the drafting, editing, and reviewing elements of the workshop in a timely fashion. These activities will require significant effort beyond the scheduled meeting times. While missing a meeting or two can be accommodated, you’ll still be expected to comply with the proposal drafting, editorial, and evaluation due dates. If you doubt you can commit the time required for cohort participation but would still like to participate, consider attending the seminars. Seminars are open to everyone and require no application or outside time commitment.