I finally sent the US-variation manuscript back to my co-author. It's in lousy shape but there's no great urgency to get it done. More urgent is work on the grant proposals, and on generating preliminary data for them.
The first goal is to get my mind clearly focused on them, so I'm starting by going through the draft proposal to CIHR, which at present is largely unchanged from its 2007 version. One (depressing) advance is that I now realize that the Introduction is a failure. It consists of three very nice paragraphs, clear and well-written. These paragraphs contain the following: 1) an introduction to natural competence; 2) the broad goals of my research program; 3) the medical relevance of DNA uptake and transformation. Unfortunately they're not the paragraphs the Introduction needs - most of the information they provide doesn't belong in the Introduction.
What should the Introduction introduce? The proposal is about the mechanism of DNA uptake, so it should probably start by framing the problem - that bacteria take up DNA but we don't know how the DNA gets across the membranes (maybe say why I think this is likely to be difficult). Maybe contrast this with uptake of simple molecules? And the medical relevance could be supplemented with some cell biology relevance - for understanding related processes, maybe getting a better picture of the roles and mechanism of type 4 pili. I should also reframe the broad goals of our research, with less emphasis on evolutionary function and more on the totality of competence.
I'm also reconsidering which committee I should direct this proposal to. The previous version went to the Microbiology and Infectious Diseases committee, partly because they had approved our previous proposal, but also because I was simultaneously sending a different proposal (on gene regulation) to the Biochemistry and Molecular Biology committee. That proposal was funded. This new proposal is quite biochemical, so I'm wondering if it should go the the BMB committee.
OK, now I need to reread the proposal, to once again remind myself of what it's all about.
20 hours ago in Variety of Life