I received the following email last week:
As you are aware there has been some discussion about the relevance of the form 100 as part of the grant application package. At the Department Head meeting yesterday it was decided to retire Form100. So that means starting today, the Peer Review Form 100 is no longer required as part of your grant application signature package”.
and there was much rejoicing in the land of grant wranglers!
Seriously – within five minutes I’d sent two and received three celebratory emails to/from fellow sufferers. At a seminar later that day, with lots of grant wranglers in the audience, there was a round of applause and an outbreak of grinning and thumbs-upping at friends when the news was repeated. One colleague has suggested that we throw a party to celebrate Form 100’s demise, and I don’t think she’s joking.
Until today, obtaining institutional sign-off of any grant required the submission of the abstract, budget summary, budget justification, an internal cover sheet signed by the PI and their department head (printed on blue paper)…
…and two copies of the internal peer review form (printed on pink paper), each one signed by a different PI who was not a co-applicant or collaborator on the grant.
In theory, the latter requirement ensured quality control and pre-submission exclusion of no-hoper grants. However, in practice, grants were not reviewed thoroughly enough (or early enough) to make a real difference. Whenever a big deadline approached (and for some of the big federal competitions the PIs in our building will submit literally hundreds of applications between them), the requirement for two peer reviews of every grant created a frustrating bottleneck: our internal deadlines typically fall a week or so before the funding agency’s deadline, so everyone would still be working on their proposals and no-one would have a final version ready for review; and almost every potential reviewer would be frantically trying to finalise their own grants, leaving them little time to spend reading their colleagues’ drafts.
The process was stressful on the grant wranglers, too. We’d all spend far too much valuable editing/proofing time running around making deals with PIs and with our counterparts in other departments (“my PI will review your grants if your PI reviews mine”), not to mention trying to find out if there was any pink paper left anywhere in the building and, if not, whether pale purple would be acceptable.
I think internal peer review can be a very good thing, if it’s done right – and in my opinion, right means selectively. Established PIs with a good track record of funding should be left alone to judge their own grants’ merits, whereas newer PIs, or those without much recent grant success, deserve a much more thorough and thoughtful review of their grants at a much earlier stage of the process.
I’m sure we haven’t seen the end of pre-submission internal grant review at our institution, although I have no idea what form it might take in the future. I’m expecting that the PIs and grant wranglers will be asked for our input, and so, dear blogosphere, I’d like to hear about the practices in place at other institutions around the world:
- Does your institution have any kind of formal pre-submission peer review of grant applications?
- If so, at what stage of the submission process is it applied?
- Do all grants go through this process, or only those submitted by new investigators?
- If the process is selective, what are the criteria for a grant requiring review?
- Do you find the practices in place at your institution to be helpful?
Thank you in advance!