Expert Comments: One thing PIs aren’t in the habit of including is a discussion of the intellectual environment. For example, do you have collaborators with whom you can discuss ideas and challenges? Are there collaborating institutions that promote you and your colleagues getting together to address research related challenges?
You may also want to include in your application the names of individuals— at your institution or within your network — who have made themselves available to assist you with their knowledge and expertise.
This information is incredibly important in communicating how your environment contributes to your proposal’s success. And these things won’t be apparent to a reviewer unless you articulate them in the environment section of your application.
The environment section also demonstrates your institution’s overall support for your research. For early-stage investigators in particular, reviewers want to see that your institution values your work and is committed to helping you succeed.
At the same time, demonstrating institutional support addresses your project’s feasibility and your freedom to perform your research away from classrooms, advising, committees and other day-to-day duties that compete for your time. Reviewers want to be sure you will have both time and facilities to tackle the research you describe.
Expert comments by Abby Parrill, PhD, Chair of the Department of Chemistry at the University of Memphis.