Critical Questions For Research Proposals
As director of DARPA in the 1970’s George H. Heilmeier developed a set of questions that he expected every proposal for a new research program to answer. He referred to them as the “Heilmeier Catechism”. These questions still survive at DARPA and provide high level guidance for what information a proposal should provide. It’s important to answer these questions for any individual research project, both for yourself and for communicating to others what you hope to accomplish. These questions are:
- What are you trying to do? Articulate your objectives using absolutely no jargon. What is the problem? Why is it hard?
- How is it done today, and what are the limits of current practice?
- What’s new in your approach and why do you think it will be successful?
- Who cares?
- If you’re successful, what difference will it make? What impact will success have? How will it be measured?
- What are the risks and the payoffs?
- How much will it cost?
- How long will it take?
- What are the midterm and final “exams” to check for success? How will progress be measured?