Peer reviews provide critical, independent assessment of research proposals and program performance to help funding agencies determine the quality of research proposals and the accuracy of the scientific information they contain.
In October 2018, HRA compiled a list of responses to the Listserv to answer the following questions: What is your process of LOI review for a program or mechanism? What is the count of LOIs you get and what number do you allow to submit full applications? The responses can be accessed here: Culling LOIs
Peer Review (Programmatic Review)
The review process typically utilizes members of the community to oversee and provide constructive feedback and input in reviewing proposals. These individuals are investigators and industry experts who have the background to provide appropriate and thorough feedback for candidates. Oversight for the peer review process is conducted by a Scientific Review Officer (SRO) who is a scientific administrative position that directs the peer review process by which scientific grants are critiqued and ranked in order of scientific merit for consideration for funding by the funding agency.
Internal vs. External Review
Administrative and Technical Review
The internal review process is initially reviewed by the administrative or scientific staff of the funder. This is the first step in the triage process to determine whether the letter of intent or the proposal meets the eligibility and program requirements that are set by the funder. If yes, the application will be assigned for review by the external or the scientific review.
This is the external portion of the review process where a scientific review committee. This committee is comprised of investigators from institutions who are associated with the organization or work within the community that the funder is working with. Following internal review, the committee chair or the organization staff will assign reviewers who are qualified to provide insight and input for the LOI or the proposal.
Guidelines for Giving Applicants Feedback
Both principal investigators and applicant institutions are always trying to make sure that they are as responsive as possible given the information available. Providing application feedback to applicants and institutions can help improve proposals over time, creating a culture of more competitive and more responsive applications. This can be done both individually (proposal by proposal) and more generally (by communicating overall characteristics and general statistics about the application pool).
These are some questions to consider:
- What are the most common scientific mistakes in the application pool?
- What are the most common administrative mistakes in the application pool?
- What percentage of applications were funded (low success rates are expected from prestigious or large awards)?