Whenever I write a post with "gray" in the title, some people think I am going to talk about hair, but no -- to me, "gray" signifies the mythical "gray zone" in which your grant proposal is neither awarded nor declined.. yet.
I have been talking to various colleagues recently, as some of us await decisions about various proposals. I recently got one grant for which I am very grateful because the science is going to be very cool and the grant will help support a new graduate student. I am, however, in limbo about another proposal that I submitted quite a long time ago, long before the grant that was just awarded. I expected to hear by now, but I have not.
How do I know I am in a gray zone and not just impatient or delusional?
My own personal definition of the phenomenon of being in the gray zone is a situation in which others who submitted to the same program have already received word that their proposals were awarded or declined, but others have not heard yet. If some already know about their proposals and I don't know anything yet, my proposal is in a gray zone.
I know that such regions of the grantosphere exist because I have been in the gray zone before. Sometimes I emerge with a grant, sometimes I don't.
Obviously being in the gray zone is not as good as getting the grant funded right away and not as bad as being definitively rejected, but is there any point in being hopeful whilst waiting to hear from NSF?
Colleague #1 says there is no hope, there is no gray zone, and anyone who hasn't heard yet isn't going to get the grant. There's probably just some administrative reason why the official "We regret that.." e-mail can't be sent out yet.
Colleague #2 says that we have hope, there is a gray zone, and perhaps the program officers are trying to find a way to fund our proposal.
I veer between these points of views every 12 minutes, but I tend to agree more with Colleague 2. Now I just have to decide whether to contact the program officers and see if they have any information for me now, good or bad, or whether I want to continue to wait and hope for the best.
If you have been in a gray zone with a proposal, did you contact a program officer to extract information because the waiting was too agonizing, or did you just wait (and wait) because you'd rather live with the hope of getting the grant than hasten your knowledge of the rejection?
6 years ago