Related Research– This very important section shows the relationship of the research to other efforts within and outside USDA. Do not repeat detail that may be in the prior section. This includes the CRIS search. If not included in the scientific background you may make this a separate section. The purpose is to show linkages and relation to other, related and similar, work. This is particularly important where there are related or analogous ARS projects. As well, if there are significant efforts outside of ARS, demonstrating your knowledge and/or cooperation with them can be important to note here or elsewhere (For example, as a collaborator in the Approach and Procedures section). See CRIS Search for information on doing a search for related USDA research.
Approach and Research Procedures– For each objective, elaborate on the following:
Experimental Design – Describe in appropriate detail the experimental design and the related procedures. State, if applicable, the question ( hypothesis) that will be tested and how experimental results will be evaluated. Detail should be sufficient to inform the reviewer of the nature and appropriateness of the planned experiments and the competence of the project team.
Contingencies – Discuss specific approaches and experimental options that will be undertaken if the research plan proceeds faster or slower than anticipated, or if early plans prove impractical or unsuccessful. (See Box: Contingencies).
In a memo to Area researchers on developing a project plan Dr. Steve Shafer, former Midwest Area Director, gave the following useful guidance about contingencies.
This is a frequently misunderstood section, and frankly, I think it has evolved since we started doing these project plans…This is definitely not a place to describe work you would do if you get new funding, either appropriated or grants. This project plan should describe what you will do over the next five years with the specific funds currently appropriated by Congress for the work. Contingencies should describe what will drive your choices of direction as you get results. Another way to think about this might be: What would make us decide to modify our [objectives or] sub-objectives?
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