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Proposal Development Institute (PDI)

Last Updated: September 4, 2018

Components of the Proposal Development Institute (PDI) program

The purpose of the Proposal Development Institute (PDI) program is to provide a variety of experiences that collectively are believed to enhance the ability of tenured or tenure-track faculty, continued appointment A/P faculty, and research assistant professors at Virginia Tech to successfully pursue externally funded grants and contracts to support their research and scholarly activities. The program is primarily designed for faculty members who are still relatively early in their development regarding the formulation of their research ideas into formal written proposals to external sponsors. The PDI program is jointly funded through the Office of the Vice President for Research and Innovation and the colleges, departments, and research centers of faculty members selected to participate in the PDI program.

There are various components that collectively make up the PDI program. These are described below.

  1. PDI Workshop - One of the major events is a two-day workshop with external consultants who have many years of experience working with faculty to develop their proposal preparation skills. The workshop experience (scheduled on campus for mid-January each year) will include information targeted to specific federal agencies and foundations. Topics addressed include interactions with program managers; writing styles and approaches for effectively communicating research ideas in proposals; how to pursue specific “early career” research awards from several funding agencies, etc. The workshop also includes time for PDI participants to consult one-on-one with the external consultants in areas of interest about effective proposal writing skills development.

  2. Travel to Washington, D.C. - Another major component of the program is the opportunity to travel to Washington, D.C. in late May each year for the purpose of visiting one or more federal agencies or foundations and meeting with program officers. The two-day event also includes presentations from program managers from multiple agencies regarding their research programs and funding opportunities for newer faculty. Prior to the trip PDI participants are given guidance as to how to best prepare for a face-to-face interaction with a research program manager.

  3. Educational Seminars – Throughout the PDI program participants are given an opportunity to participate in synchronous and asynchronous (online) seminars that address a wide variety of topics related to the pursuit of external research funding and the conduct of funded research grants and contracts. Many of these seminars are coordinated with and through the Office of the Vice President for Research and Innovation. Representative seminar titles from the PDI program in the past few years would include:
    • An Overview of the Office of Sponsored Programs
    • Understanding the University-Level Investment Research Institutes
    • Forming and Participating in Interdisciplinary Research Teams
    • Preparing Effective Broader Impact Statements and Educational Plans for Proposals to the National Science Foundation
    • Preparing and Implementing Data Management Plans to Support Research Activities
    PDI participants are expected each spring semester to participate in at least 3-4 educational seminars.

  4. Research Mixers – Early in the program there are typically two, two-hour gatherings of the PDI participants for the purpose of getting to know their fellow participants and learn about their research interests and activities. Each PDI member is given five minutes to share their research background, research interests, and the specific types of research collaborators they are looking for. Each year these gatherings have generated a significant number of new collaborations between members of the PDI class and/or other faculty members on campus.

  5. PDI Mentoring Groups – Each year a high percentage of the PDI faculty members will choose to participate in a PDI mentoring group. Each group consists of 4 to 6 PDI participants who are paired with a more senior Virginia Tech faculty member who serves as the mentor for the group. Monthly meetings of the mentoring group take place during the duration of the PDI program each year. These mentoring groups primarily focus on aspects of writing effective research proposals and pursuing funding with external agencies and foundations; however, they likewise are designed to address topics of interest and importance that arise among the participants in the group.

  6. Internal Review of NSF CAREER Award Proposals – PDI participants who decide to submit an NSF CAREER Award proposal during their year in the program can obtain an internal review of their proposal from Virginia Tech faculty members. This input can help the PDI faculty member strengthen their proposal prior to formal submission to NSF.

  7. Luncheons with Senior Virginia Tech Administrators – PDI participants have an opportunity to participate in informal lunch gatherings that are arranged with senior Virginia Tech administrators. Participants have the opportunity to engage these senior leaders in discussion about the directions of research endeavors at Virginia Tech.