Excerpts from the individual and panel reviews on my latest proposal:
The proposed work is very well motivated, well organized, with clear plans and goals.
There is also:
Guaranteed access to the CTIO 1.5 m, and an established track record with WIYN 3.5 m observations, add to the strength of the proposal. Preliminary work from both telescopes are presented, indicating that the proposed aims for the project are achievable.
And, indeed, in another one:
This is a well written proposal (though I found unnecessary details in places such as section 4).
I should note that the stuff I put in section 4 was in response to comments of a previous TAC about a certain element of the feasibility.... What one panel sees as missing, the next sees as too much information when its added.
Despite all that, in another review I have:
In general the proposal is not well written and important information about the expected results and feasibility are not given.
and, in a panel summary, contradicting something above:
The resources available to the project do not appear to
be sufficient for the proposed research.
It's really not clear to me what to do with all of this. It's all over the map. Was it well written? Or not? Are there clear goals? Or not? Are the resources I have a strength of the proposal? Or are they insufficient? No way to know. I mean, I do know, but there's no way to know how I can convey that information to a putative future panel.
There were some criticisms offered that I would agree, yes, there should be more information about that in there— although these were not things mentioned in previous years. It's such a moving target that it's frustrating. But when you get such mixed messages in one year— what is one supposed to think? Clearly it wasn't good enough, but these kinds of messages make me think that it's not possible to make this project into something good enough. The only thing that would be good enough would be if I were to happen to, effectively, win the lottery— figure out what is going to be the most exciting science du jour, and write it up well and thoughtfully.
It's too frustrating for words.
Addendum: It's also worth mentioning that the public-outreach portion of the proposal was unanimously viewed as a strength this year and two years ago. Last year, however, the reviews objected that it wasn't related enough to the science in the proposal. Again, what's a strength one year may be insufficient the next....