During my recent travels, I had limited internet access. I have trouble breathing and feel a bit faint if separated from the internet for too long, and this sporadic internet access was particularly difficult for me because I was waiting to hear news of a proposal. Whenever I did have internet access, I quickly scanned my inbox hoping for (good) news about the proposal. I last checked my email at the equivalent of about 1:30 pm on a Friday in the program officer's city. Nothing.
Later that night, after I'd turned out the light to try to sleep, my phone vibrated with a text message from my co-PI: "xx funded!". My daughter woke up, I told her the news, and she offered to roam the city with me looking for an internet connection so I could get more information. This was kind of her, and I was briefly tempted, but I decided that would be a bit too insane.
I replied to my co-PI and sent a text message to the postdoc whose funding depended on that grant.
I was very happy and relieved. Even so, I had anxious dreams that night:
- Maybe I had misunderstood the text message? The 'xx' in the text message was a 2-letter abbreviation that had seemed unambiguous when I first read it, but what if my co-PI meant something else?
- Did "funded" really mean "funded" or was it a "I hope this proposal will be funded" kind of message?
- Would the budget be cut substantially? What if the email from the program director actually said "I am going to fund the research except for the postdoc." I had already texted my postdoc with the great news. What if that was premature?
And so on. I am not an extraordinarily anxious person under normal circumstances, but I was very worried about this proposal for various complex reasons that had nothing to do with the intrinsic merit of the research proposed.
I also thought that this proposal was one of the 2-3 best proposals I had ever written. If it had been turned down in this year of supposedly abundant $$ for research, I would have been more devastated than usual at the rejection of a proposal.
Proposal anxiety certainly did not ruin my family vacation, but it was always there at a low to moderate level, not far from my mind, with occasional spikes of more intense anxiety.
Checking email the next day confirmed that the proposal really will be funded at close to the requested level. Now I know that the grant really will exist, the postdoc funding is intact, and all is right with the world. And now I have a new idea for another proposal.
8 years ago