I have been proposal-writing lately. Mostly I have been working on the thorough revamping of a proposal that wasn't funded in a previous submission -- 'wasn't funded' sounds slightly better than 'was rejected', does it not? In the intervening time, I have been working on the project to acquire an awesome set of preliminary data because one of the main criticisms of the first proposal was that I didn't have enough preliminary data. This brings up two issues:
1. How much preliminary data is enough? It's a well-known conundrum of proposals that you have to do some of the research before you can get funded to do the research. informFortunately, many universities recognize this and provide small grants for pilot projects to acquire the necessary data to write a big proposal. For some projects, however, it can be difficult to know how much preliminary data you need before the proposal will fly.
In the past year or so, I actually did a lot of the research that I proposed in the earlier submission, and published 2 papers on this work. There are still a lot of interesting things to do, and the pilot study has resulted in some new and exciting directions for the work. I hope that my preliminary work has strengthened my new proposal by showing that the proposed work is feasible, and that the project is very cool.
BUT, I have had reviews for other proposals say that I had "too much" preliminary data. Figuring out what is too much and what is not enough and what is just right is a moving target because every reviewer is different. I've had other reviews by reviewers who basically wanted see all the results before they would believe the work was possible. This leads me to my next point:
2. When submitting a new, revised proposal for a previously rejected proposal, how much attention should you pay to the previous reviews? There is no one answer to that of course, but I will say that I don't think there is much point to including a 'response to reviewer comments' section in a resubmission. The worst of these sound defensive, and even reasonable ones typically focus on details and don't impress anyone. I think it's better to revise the proposal in the most compelling way possible and let it be reviewed as it is, without reference to previous incarnations. I am sure there are divergent opinions on that issue.
I know that in some countries, the project director can write a rebuttal to reviewer comments. I rather like that idea, but it's probably not practical for a system the size of the U.S. NSF. Lacking such a system, I think it's a waste of precious proposal space to write a rebuttal.
6 years ago