Final Proposal Project

Final Proposal Project

Final Proposal Project
For graduate credit in this class, a final project is required. This project will be a written proposal of 10 pages (double-spaced) of substantive text on the research topic of your choice, within some broad guidelines. There are deadlines related to this project throughout the semester (listed below), and it’s smart to begin thinking about this now. The goals of the proposal are to identify an unresolved, original scientific question within global change science that has significant implications for policy and to propose a project to address it. (This is NOT a term paper assignment, where you summarize existing knowledge on a topic.) The proposal must include a detailed description of the methods you will use to answer this question (experiments, observations, analyses, etc.). The problem must be significant yet tractable, and your proposed approach to solving it must be reasonable in terms of chances for success. This is good practice for your future as a global change scientist! I am looking for a focused approach to a specific problem – not a description of how you’d solve all outstanding issues with several trillion dollars. You can choose an example from your field of research but please don’t use a previous research paper for another course as the focus for this exercise. The topic of the proposal is open — it can be anything broadly related to global environmental change. The only limitation is that it must contain a human dimension — something you can relate to an impact on society, and that would provide guidance in how to deal with that impact (i.e. a policy). Remember that it must represent an unresolved scientific issue, towards which your project will make an original scientific contribution. Your topic must be approved in advance!

The proposal should accomplish several goals:
Identify an unresolved scientific question, relevant to global environmental change science and to policy.

Describe the scientific background in sufficient detail to motivate the proposed research question, and show command of the subject and methods, and familiarity with recent relevant research.

Propose in detail a strategy to address this question (your method: experiments, observations, modeling, etc.).

Discuss the broader implications of the proposed research with respect to environmental policy (how will your answers be used?)

The proposal should contain the following sections (the page lengths are a rough guide for how you should allocate your effort; the 10 page guide refers to sections 2, 3, and 4 below):
1. A stand-alone Project Summary (1 page, single-spaced). The summary should be readable in isolation from the rest of the proposal, and should give a concise statement of the research question, the methods you will use to address it, and its significance; (in National Science Foundation grants, the project summary is made publicly available).

2. Main Text (10 pages not including figures), with the following sections:
An Introduction that gives sufficient background to place the research in scientific and societal context (~3-4 pages, doublespaced);
A Project Description of the proposed work (how you will address the problem, ~4-5 pages, double-spaced) (be sure to mention deliverables), and
A Conclusion that describes the significance of proposed research and expected outcomes (including how your work will affect policy or societal issues, ~1-2 pages, double spaced).

3. A budget. (~1 page, not included in the 10 pages of main text).

4. A Literature Cited section. (no page limit, also not included in the 10 pages of main text). Your proposal should draw on original scientific publications and not just websites, although high-quality websites can be cited. The paper should be fully referenced in scientific format — that is, not with footnotes but by the author’s name and year of the publication. Example: (Schlesinger, 1999) or Schlesinger (1999) depending on whether the author’s name is used explicitly in the sentence. You should include 2-3 relevant figures that illustrate key points and ideas (also IN ADDITION to the 10p text length). These should be specific to your proposed work – not general global change figures, but data that support your ideas or maps with relevant information. Note that the project summary is 1 page single-spaced; the remaining lengths are based on double spacing. A typical NSF proposal runs 15 pages single-spaced plus the summary; yours will be a shorter version (we need the double-spacing for grading/comments).

The hardest part of this assignment is coming up with an original scientific question, and I urge you strongly to begin this process ASAP. You may find yourself struggling to identify a real research question that is unresolved, and end up falling back on the tried-and-true format of term papers that summarize existing research. PLEASE DO NOT DO THIS! Another direction that will lead to grief is to use this paper to propose a policy to “solve” an environmental problem without describing the scientific research needed to evaluate whether the policy is appropriate. These approaches will not satisfy the requirements for this assignment. In the past, difficulty with identifying an appropriate topic has led students to ultimately request incompletes to finish this assignment. Based on past painful experiences, I will not grant such requests. You can do this within the semester, but you should start early.

Deadline:
End of Week 7: Final proposal due (20 % of final grade). Ideal length is 10 pages of double spaced text or about 3000 words. Outside of these page limits, the proposal should include your 1-page Project Summary, 2-3 well-chosen figures, an approximate budget, and a scientifically formatted bibliography. A note on the budget requirement: Don’t worry about exact numbers, but do try to be thorough. Identify how long your project will take to complete, including write-up of results (typical: 1-3 years). Please budget by categories such as the following: salary (don’t forget to pay yourself! How many months per year will you devote to this?), travel, analytical expenses (e.g. isotopic analyses at $10 per sample), equipment/materials costs, etc. Please do not budget by tasks (e.g. “statistical analysis of data,” “sampling of forest biomass and analysis of nutrients,” etc.). Presumably you will pay project personnel such as yourself, a grad student, and/or a postdoc to handle tasks, but these should be budgeted as salaries. This budgeting process is good practice for your future in science!
This course uses automatic plagiarism checking software (Turnitin). You may submit your work up to 3 times prior to the deadline to check your similarity scores (aim for 10% similarity or less). It takes roughty 15 minutes for the system to process your submission and show the score.

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