Why serve as a reviewer?
One of the best ways to improve your own grantsmanship, along with writing a lot of proposals, is to read and evaluate grants others have written. As a reviewer for a federal or state agency or other organization, you will read a variety of proposals written for the same grant program – excellent training for understanding what makes a proposal successful and what does not. Also, if you serve on a review panel, you will have the benefit of learning how other reviewers, some of whom may be veteran reviewers, evaluate the same proposals.
In addition, serving as a reviewer provides firsthand knowledge about a sponsor and the priorities of its grant programs, the review process and what it takes for a grant to be funded by that organization. This information will serve you well if you apply for a grant from that funder. In addition, reviewing is a great way to keep abreast of the current topics and areas of research in your field and to network with others working in your area.
What experience is needed?
In most cases, you do not need to be successful grantee to be a grant reviewer. Junior faculty are often welcomed as grant reviewers. Funders generally look for reviewers with experience or expertise in the fields or areas in which they are granting.
What is involved?
Depending on the funder’s review process, reviews are conducted in a number of ways. A funder may provide you a set of proposals to evaluate independently; you may share your evaluations with the funder via mail, e-mail, or conference call. In other instances, you may conduct an initial review of proposals and then convene as part of a review panel at a funder’s designated location for a joint group evaluation. Funders will generally cover any travel expenses and may provide a small stipend for your review work.
In addition, the review process often requires a lot of a reviewer’s time over a short period. For instance, a panel session may be conducted in two 10-hour days. It is advisable to understand the time and travel commitments involved before agreeing to serve as a reviewer.
How do I become a reviewer
Many federal, state and organization funders are continually seeking reviewers and have websites allowing you to easily volunteer. To volunteer, choose a funder that fits your area of interest and/or expertise. Check that funder’s website for instructions on how to become a reviewer. Often, you will e-mail an appropriate contact for the program you are interested in and provide your contact information and area of expertise. Funders may also ask you to submit a CV. Some funders have questionnaires for potential reviewers to complete. They will then contact you when they have a review opportunity matching your expertise and interest.
If you don’t find specific instructions on how to become a reviewer for a funder, contact the funder’s grant manager or appropriate program officer and let them know of your interest in serving as a reviewer.