Writing project proposals is part and parcel of academic life; what better way to learn how to write a proposal than to take a look at one? Here you go for a proposal submitted to NSF; the proposal did not get funding; however, since Prof. Suo has published the referee comments also along with the proposal, they might also give you some pointers about the proposal writing process.
It was Paul Halmos, who called himself a maverick mathematician, and argued against funding mathematics projects since that would force only those who are truly interested in mathematics take it up; he thought that too much of funding attracts people who are more interested in funding than in mathematics (in this book, I think). I do not know how far it is true; however, in this case, as is clear from the comments of the Prof. Suo, the non-funding turned out to be a blessing in disguise:
Lack of funding in this case may as well be a blessing in disguise. When the idea of using the Internet to evolve all knowledge of mechanics first came to me, as an academic, my natural action was to talk about it and write a proposal. During that period, I had many long conversations with Zak Stone, a student in physics and computer science. He once asked me, “but Zhigang, why do you need funding for doing this?” Indeed, for what we want to do, at least initially, we don’t need more research about online communities. Rather, we need to motivate many people to participate. The technology already exists.
The lack of funding has drastically reduced the scope of the proposed work, and focused our attention to one aspect: bringing the community together through Drupal. This has given us time to reflect on what we have learned through online interactions. The levels of commitment of the participants are not too high to disrupt our other activities.
Now we can regard iMechanica as a testbed for further experiments. One possible way to move forward is to decentralize the development. Individual users may include their iMechanica activities as parts of their regular NSF proposals. Possible ideas include helping K-12 students produce videos, posting innovative material for teaching, promoting a new area of research through forum discussion…
For more ambitions development of iMechanica as an online platform for mechanics, we can use iMechanica as a forum to discuss specific ideas, and can even write a proposal as a community.
Take a look!