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Proposal Prep

Over at the Discover magazine blog Cosmic Variance, Julianne Dalcanton shares tips for crafting what she calls a "well-argued proposal." Such a proposal must show that the science is "important, feasible, [and] efficient." To demonstrate those three qualities, Dalcanton suggests focusing first on selling points — the importance — and on potential weaknesses — which speak to the feasibility and efficiency — of the proposed work. "I then start filling out each with short bullet points listing every possible argument for or against what I'm proposing," she says. While pointing out selling points is relatively simple, Dalcanton says focusing on potential weaknesses can be tough because "you need to channel your inner crabby reviewer."

Once that's done, Dalcanton says to take a step back to evaluate the overall proposal, making sure that its main message comes through. "If your ideas are strong, you'll usually find that several of the most compelling bullet points will group together and can be ordered to tell a single story," she says. For any unresolved potential weaknesses, Dalcanton suggests constructing a "road map for what you need to do to make your experiment look feasible and efficient" in the reviewers' eyes.

Overall, Dalcanton recommends thoroughly considering all positive and potential negative points to include in the proposal before beginning to write it. "The exercise of structuring your argument first is designed to be fast, so you don't sink much time in before you decide whether to continue or not," she says.

The Scan

Pig Organ Transplants Considered

The Wall Street Journal reports that the US Food and Drug Administration may soon allow clinical trials that involve transplanting pig organs into humans.

'Poo-Bank' Proposal

Harvard Medical School researchers suggest people should bank stool samples when they are young to transplant when they later develop age-related diseases.

Spurred to Develop Again

New Scientist reports that researchers may have uncovered why about 60 percent of in vitro fertilization embryos stop developing.

Science Papers Examine Breast Milk Cell Populations, Cerebral Cortex Cellular Diversity, Micronesia Population History

In Science this week: unique cell populations found within breast milk, 100 transcriptionally distinct cell populations uncovered in the cerebral cortex, and more.