How to work on a grant review panel
You may be invited as a trainee to join a grant review panel. This is an excellent opportunity: it looks good on the CV, is a chance to network with senior academics and gives you invaluable insight into the grant reviewing process (which will improve your grant writing skills).
Establish the level of commitment (how many grants would you be expected to review, how many times a year would you be expected to meet) and expertise required for the role. Grant review panels often comprise a mixture of people from different areas with different levels of expertise and may include a trainee representative position.
- when you will receive grants to review
- the deadline to have submitted your review
- the date of the grant review meeting
- time set aside to review the grants – this may be a lengthy process
When you are sent grants to review, check first for any conflicts of interest and declare these.
Follow the guidance issued by the funders regarding scoring the grants.
Review the grants critically. Look up references and methods that are unfamiliar to you. Consider looking up the background and publishing track record of the authors.
Often grant review panels divide grants between the panel, meaning that each panel member may read every grant superficially but only read in detail their allocated grants. Therefore it helps to prepare a summary of your allocated grants to present at the meeting. Consider including the following:
- background of the study’s aims and objectives, how it fits with the funder’s remit and the clinical need
- the ethical and patient considerations (although this may be reviewed separately if the panel contains a PPI representative)
- the authors’ background and track record in this area
- a summary of the external reviewer’s comments (if the grant was sent for external review) and the authors’ responses
- your perception of the study’s strengths and weaknesses
- the likely clinical impact of the study
- what could be done to improve the study design (as the grant review panel may choose to make these suggested improvements a condition of the grant being awarded)
- Funders usually have a limited amount of money per grant round. Grants are usually categorised into:
- those that should not be funded (e.g. due to methodological flaws or failing to meet the funder’s remit)
- those that could be funded: these are then ranked and the highest scoring grants awarded
Have the confidence to share your ideas and contribute to the group discussion – often the flaws in grants are of a practical nature and can be spotted using common sense, without requiring an in-depth knowledge of a specific technique.
Remember that the grants that you review and discuss within the meeting are confidential.
Record your role as a reviewer on your CV