One of the issues that led to the formation of the Health Research Alliance many years ago was defining “best practices” in grants management. Challenges such as electronic grant applications, tracking alumni, increasing diversity, and implementing effective peer review spurred a group of funders to share challenges and experiences in attempts to solve some of the more intractable problems funders faced. Partnering in this way was so valuable to these organizations, they worked together to form the alliance that eventually became the HRA.
HRA formed the Grants Administration Working Group to share attempts at addressing ongoing challenges in grantmaking. Discussions have evolved from “best practices” to suggestions for implementing effective and innovative practices needed to tackle some of the most elusive or ever changing issues in grantmaking.
Some of the discussions have led to a stand-alone working groups such as the Grants Program Analysis Working Group.
In addition to the working groups, HRA’s Listserv allow members to pose questions and solicit feedback to address challenging issues facing grantmakers. For instance, efforts to better understand and manage Peer Review has spurred HRA activities including: workshops or meetings on using patient advocates/laypeople in the review process; the role of peer review in informed decision-making; transparency, recognition and innovation in peer review in the life sciences; unconscious bias in peer review: a survey of the HRA membership about our peer review practices; and many more resources that have been generated from HRA’s deep dive into implementing effective peer review processes.
In addition to discussion around Peer Review other important topics related to Grants Management include:
- Grants Management Systems – pros and cons of each
- Tracking Alumni
- Preaward and Postaward grants management challenges
- Communicating impact
- Strategic planning
- Fostering collaboration among grantees
- Generating and publicizing RFP’s
- Strategies for managing boards
- Mentoring: defining good mentoring, encouraging the mentoring of awardees, encouraging awardees to become good mentors, best practices in designing mentored research awards, etc.