Experienced applicants, reviewers and funding agency officials generally agree that one of the best ways to become a better proposal writer is to serve as a reviewer of proposals – and most federal funding agencies provide opportunities to do this. The underlying reasons for being proactive in seeking out such opportunities are multiple. First, you will have the opportunity to observe the review process “up close and personal” which is likely to radically change your perspective on competing for funding. Second, you are likely to be highly surprised at how poorly written many grant applications are, and what distinguishes a well-written proposal from one that is not particularly well-written. This will undoubtedly assist you in writing your own grant applications. Third, you will gain the opportunity to interact with experts in the field, which markedly increases your opportunities for “networking”. This is especially important, given the critical value of networking in most fields and disciplines. Fourth, you will gain the opportunity to interact with funding agency officials, and these personal relationships can be of value for all of your future interactions with that funding agency. Fifth, but not least, you have the opportunity to “pay back” to the field in exchange for all of the commitments of others to review your grant applications.
An important piece of advice would be that, if you would be given the opportunity to participate as a reviewer, be absolutely certain to accept this invitation (if at all possible) and then do the very best job that you can. In addition, we would suggest that, once you have prepared your review(s), ask several of your experienced proposal reviewer colleagues to critically evaluate the quality of your review and make specific suggestions. Also remember that serving as a reviewer will represent a significant time commitment and you must be willing to commit the time re-quired to provide a quality review. Thus, if you would have any doubts as to whether you would be able to make such a time commitment, refrain from accepting an invitation to serve. In this respect, doing a poor job on the review panel has the potential to do irreparable damage to your future professional opportunities in the granting arena. In any case, you should be strongly encouraged to at least carefully consider pursuing, and taking advantage of, any and all opportunities at the earliest possible time that you would be eligible, based upon information provided by the funding agency to participate in this program. In this respect, if you would not be specifically invited, carefully consider being proactive in actively seeking out an opportunity to serve. Relevant URLs for major funding agencies describing opportunities to serve as a reviewer:
1. National Institutes of Health (NIH):
2. National Science Foundation (NSF)
3. U.S. Department of Agriculture (NIFA)
4. National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH)
http://www.neh.gov/grants (see left side of page)
5. National Endowment for the Arts (NEA)
If you are interested in becoming a panelist, contact firstname.lastname@example.org for additional information.
6. Health Services Resource Administration (HRSA)
7. Department of Education (DoEd)
8. Department of Energy – Emerging Technologies (DOE)
Opportunities at other funding agencies to serve as a peer reviewer can frequently be found by searching the Internet, by searching the funding agency website, or by directly accessing the “Contact Us” usually provided on the funding agency website.