Contacting a Program Officer
The job of a Program Officer (PO) is to ensure the funds they are in charge of distributing go to research that accomplishes the objectives of their program and that the funded researcher succeeds. They want to know the researchers in their funding space, support them and learn from them. Check the agency’s program pages for the listing of relevant POs and contact information.
Research Development strongly advises that all PIs talk with the relevant Program Officer (PO) before committing to an identified funding opportunity to establish a good relationship and confirm that your research area and project fit with the sponsor’s and program’s objectives. If it doesn’t, you can discuss potential changes that might make your project a good fit. You can also obtain guidance about a project’s design, methodology, collaborations, budget, and timeline from the Program Officer and ask any questions you may have.
It is important to reach out to the PO as early as possible to ensure enough time to write a competitive proposal. We also recommend that you use the conversation to start a relationship with the PO that will hopefully be long lasting and could transcend their current position at the given agency. If you need help in any stage of the process, including meeting with the PO, please reach out to the Research Development Team for assistance.
Below are links to several resources that talk about various strategies for planning for and successfully contacting a PO:
- NSF 101: 5 Tips on How to Work with a Program Officer
- NIH: Tips for Communicating with Program Officers [pdf]
- NIH: Program Officials Are Here to Help
- NIH/National Institute on Aging: We Don't Bite! Communicating with your Program Officer
- NDSU: Communicating with Funders and Program Officers [pdf]
- Can We Talk? Contacting a Grant Program Officer by Robert Parker, University of Tennessee [pdf]
- NSF Proposal Preparation: The View of an Ex-Program Officer by Joseph Brennan [pdf]
- What to Say - and Not Say - to Program Officers by Michael J. Spires, The Chronicle of Higher Education