I am currently working on writing an R01, which to the fortunately uninitiated is a large research grant for the National Institutes of Health. The R01 is "The Big One", usually in the range of a million bucks or more, to pay for research for 3-5 years. Ours is somewhat smaller in scale, but still pushing 7 figures for 2 years support.
This behemoth is a bastard to write and an even bigger bastard to get funded. Most of the NIH institutes have low funding rates, and unless you're in the top 5-10% you can't guarantee funding. Although you do get to re-submit one time so a savvy investigator takes the comments from the Study Section that reviewed the grant and re-writes *very* carefully.
The body of the grant, the real meat, if you will, is a 25 page research proposal. I don't even want to talk about that. I have two weeks to go till i have to have this fucker submitted and the last one was a fucking nightmare (see earlier posts in January). But the sauces that decorate the meat are the supporting documents. In our case, because of the nature of the proposal is to secure funding for continuing software development we need to show that we are being used and that our Faculty have need for continued development, testing & deployment.
Which brings me, in a roundabout way, for roundabout I feel right now, to my point. today's Geek Moment.
One of the Faculty-users I approached for a Letter of Support asked for a draft she can modify and send back. Groovy. but the best, richest, Letters I have are scanned PDFs of word documents. What to do...what to do...waste time retyping in generic format or send her the Letter and hope she can re-write to my satisfaction (note; she goes out of town and is off email for ten days later this week. I need this done right and done first time).
So I was pottering around the Adobe toolbar when I remembered my Postdoc muttering something about Adobe having OCR technology. OCR is Optical Character Recognition. It's what, for example, your computer uses when you scan a document into MSWord, or Mac Pages. I looked, and sure enough, there it is in the Adobe Pro toolbar, in the Documents section: OCR Text Recognition.
I asked it to scan my patchy scanned photocopy and before you could sing all 16 verses of "American Pie" I had a Word document containing 99% correct text. All is did was cock up words like Pharmacogenomics and that I can forgive. Importantly, it didn't scan the borders, or signatures, or header either. Just the body text.
Fucking Brill. Absolutely fucking brill! All I need to do is remove the added carriage returns, clean it up and email it out. Saved me at least 45 mins of my precious time which I was able to waste writing this blog post!