2/14/22 Virtual Office Hours Recap – How to Write a Great Review

The Division of Environmental Biology (DEB) held its latest Virtual Office Hour on February 14, 2022. We host these office hours 1-2pm ET on the 2nd Monday of every month. There is a designated theme each time, but attendees are welcome to ask about other NSF-related topics. This month, Program Officers discussed how to write a great review. The presentation and other documents are available here:

Slides (PDF)

PAPPG 22-1

If you were unable to attend, here are some of the questions asked during the Q & A section:

Q: If I submit a proposal (much) earlier than the deadline, would it be reviewed earlier and get the decision earlier, or just as normal?

A: For solicitations with deadlines – submitting before the deadline will not result in having the decision made sooner. For those without deadlines – we try to get decisions to the PI within 6 months of submission.

Q: How is the review process different between ad hoc reviewers and panelists? Further, do panelists consider ad-hoc and other reviewers when preparing the panel summary?

A: Panelists and ad hoc reviewers use the same review template. When panelists are in panel for discussion, they discuss reviews from all who have reviewed that proposal. The panel summary is meant to reflect the discussion among the panelists and will incorporate information from ad hoc reviewers.

Q: You don’t need to write reviews if you are assigned as Tertiary and Quaternary panelists, correct? Did I hear it correctly earlier that you submit reviews only as a primary and scribe panelist?

A: This is entirely dependent on the program. In DEB, ALL panelists write reviews of the proposals they’re assigned to. It’s important to follow the specific guidance provided by the program hosting the panel.

Q: Does NSF have a preference to not fund proposals that seem to be more suitable for other funding agencies (e.g., NIH, NASA, USDA etc.)?

A: If you’re submitting a reworked proposal from another agency, please make sure that it is responsive to our NSF solicitation. If proposals are not responsive to a solicitation, we may return them with without review. We do have several solicitations or programs that are collaborative between NSF and other agencies.

Q: Do you have any recommendations about assembling several reviews for a panel? Submit them one by one so that they are available for program officers or other reviewers as you do them? Or hold on to them in case later proposals make you think of something you want to say about something you already reviewed? Once they are submitted, is it possible to add other notes later or is that saved for the panel discussion?

A: We suggest that you read all your assigned proposals, write up all your reviews, and then submit them at the same time, rather than one by one. In DEB, you are not allowed to change your review once it is submitted, but other divisions or programs across the agency have different rules about editing reviews.

Q: Could you please explain/speculate *why* reviewers seem to desire the broader impacts to “synergize” with the research?

A: Reviewers are really looking to see if researchers can accomplish the broader impact activities and they are more likely to do so if those activities directly relate to the project’s focus.

Q: Does the PI get the reviews, or do they only get the panel summary?

A: The PI gets both the reviews and the summary.

Q: If we are unfamiliar with the quantitative analyses in a project, do we just stay quiet on that issue and hope that other panelists/ad hoc do, or should we try to read up on it and gain some level of expertise?

A: We encourage you to review and evaluate what you know about, using your knowledge base. However, it is advisable to avoid drawing specific attention to areas of the proposal where you do not have expertise, such as by writing, “I don’t know anything about this.” We are likely getting reviews from experts in that area. You are welcome to read up on new topics presented in a proposal if you are interested, but we do not expect you to make comments on components of the proposal that you don’t have expertise in.

Please reach out to a Program Officer if you have any questions about the proposal submission and review process in DEB programs. NSF has suggested 5 tips on working with Program Officers as part of the NSF 101 series on our Science Matters blog.

Check out the upcoming office hour topics below and be sure to check back here or on the NSF Events Page for information on how to register. Our next virtual office hour is scheduled for March 14, 2022, from 1-2pm Eastern Time and will discuss funding opportunities in other divisions in Biology.

Upcoming Office Hours and Topics:   

March 14: Crossing Divisions in Biology – Opportunities in other NSF/BIO Programs (IOS, MCB, DBI)  

April 11: Research at Primarily Undergraduate Institutions                       

May 9: CAREER Solicitation                 

June 13: You’ve Been Awarded an NSF Grant, Now What?                 

July: No Virtual Office Hour 

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