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October DPS CSWA Session


by Beatrice Muller

January 1996


Meeting of the Committee for the Status of Women in Science during the Division for Planetary Science Meeting, Wednesday, noon-1:30pm, Oct. 11, 1995 at the Kohala Coast, Hawaii.

Changing the meeting from an evening to a lunch meeting had the benefit of not conflicting with other events and we had an attendance of roughly 25 people. We had two topics:

(1) An informal panel discussion about 'Writing a winning proposal' with Reta Beebe (NMSU), Bonnie Buratti (JPL), Wendy Calvin (USGS), and Ann Sprague (LPL), talking about their experience participating in review panels and their perspective on what is important for proposals.

(2) Targeting exceptional women for award nominations.

Reta started out with some statistics showing that only a few percent of proposals get funded and funding for new proposals is even lower. All agreed that it is therefore important to do half the work before submitting the proposal. Talk to the proposal contact person, ask a lot of questions, find out what the 'hot' topics are, contact people who got funded and find out about their proposal. Get the names of people who served on earlier panels and put them on your preprint list. Name recognition counts. For the proposal itself, isolate a problem, focus on it, and propose for the maximum amount of time. Make sure, you include the big picture and the relevance to the program you are proposing to. Include preprints in your proposal. First author papers are important. Sell your proposal. It is very rare that a first time applicant gets funded. Do not give up. Read the comments from the review panels carefully, improve your proposal and try again. And don't forget, that luck also plays a role. A lively discussion followed with additional people sharing their experience with writing proposals and sitting on panels.

On the second topic, we agreed that if women don't get nominated for awards they cannot get awards. A discussion started how to improve this situation. We did not want to act as a 'lobby'. Award nominations take time, mostly to gather the relevant information needed for supporting a candidate. Raising the awareness of what is needed and collaborating with each other using our network seemed to be a good starting point. Making a small committment of not tossing out the next call for nominations thinking others will surely do it comes to mind, too.

The meeting was very successful and I hope that all the participants got as much inspiration from it as I did. The above excerpt is my impression of the meeting and is by no means complete or objective.

Beatrice Muller is Chair of the DPS CSWA and a Research Associate at Kitt Peak National Observatory/
National Optical Astronomy Observatories, Tucson, AZ

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