In evaluating proposals submitted for funding, sponsors utilize several different kinds of evaluation procedures, depending on the kind of organization and the policies and procedures governing their operations. Some of the more common kinds of sponsor review procedures are discussed below.
Many government funded organizations like the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, and the National Endowment for the Humanities use peer reviewers selected from faculty across the country that are acknowledged experts in the subject area. These agencies send copies of the proposal or make copies available via electronic system to faculty reviewers for independent evaluation and scoring. The results of these reviews are then rank ordered, and a determination is made on how many can be funded based on the sponsor’s funding.
Many organizations use their own Board of Directors or an internal review committee to evaluate proposals. These sponsors do not use a peer review system but do publish extensive guidelines on the criteria used to evaluate proposal submissions. Sometimes these sponsors will release a summation of comments or suggestions on why a particular project was not funded. These summary comments can be helpful in revising and resubmitting to the sponsor. These sponsors will honor written requests for the release of this information.
Private foundations’ funding decisions are often significantly affected by the reputation of the applying institution, the reputation of the faculty member, or the previous experience the foundation has had with a particular researcher or officer of the institution. SP and the SVSU Foundation staff can assist faculty in approaching these organizations for feedback about funding decisions.
Reviews of proposals submitted to the Department of Defense agencies (Army, Navy, and Air Force) are evaluated in a number of different ways varying from individual approval by the administrative head of the agency to extensive reviews by a board of peers. Faculty applying to these agencies should contact the program officer to learn about the review process for that particular agency. Faculty should then contact the individuals responsible for programmatic decisions within these agencies to understand the evaluation process.
Faculty members should ask to see the results of their evaluations. Should one’s proposal be rejected, the evaluations are extremely valuable in reviewing the original proposal and learning how the proposal can be strengthened for the submission in the next funding cycle. SP staff can assist faculty in the revision and resubmission of these proposals. Faculty members who wish to obtain peer reviewers’ comments should contact the program officer of that sponsor directly. Many public agencies will provide reviewer comments with the letter of notification of the results of the review. These reviews present the comments without identification of the individual reviewers. The RFP will usually provide the contact information of the program officer to request these reviews, as well as a time limit during which this request must be made. The SP staff will assist faculty in reviewing these comments and in making suggestions for revising the proposal for resubmission to the same agency or to another possible external sponsor.