Salil Vadhan comments

A few retrospective notes:

  1. I got feedback on drafts of my proposal from several people before finalizing it, and this was a big help. In particular, I think others suggested to include a paragraph on Institutional Context (in the intro), and to integrate my experience/qualifications into the narrative as well as including the separate section on prior results.
  2. The part of the proposed research that I describe in most detail is in the first part of Section 3.1 and this is because this was work already in progress that I was more or less convinced would succeed. I have continued the practice of describing including some such work in my grant proposals, because I find it’s often the only way of having a really convincing research plan for theory research.
  3. Many of the other research directions were more speculative, and I did *not* actually solve most of the concrete problems described within the span of my CAREER award. (There was substantial progress on some of these subsequent to my CAREER award, often by other people.) Nevertheless, I did work on most of these general topics, and wrote papers on related problems, which I think is just fine as far as NSF is concerned.
  4. I purposely left out a large part of my research (namely on zero-knowledge proofs and topics in cryptography other than pseudorandomness) from the CAREER proposal, to leave open the possibility of other grant proposals.
  5. My “broader impacts” were mostly educational in nature. Nowadays I try to also talk a bit about potential external impact of the research areas, when possible.
  6. I included support letters from people that I said I’d collaborate with (confirming that they intend to collaborate with me). While this may not be strictly required, I thought it might help and couldn’t hurt.
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