One often overlooked way to hone your grant writing skills is by becoming a peer reviewer for grant applications. This will give you a behind the scenes look at how public or private funding agencies decide who is funded and who is rejected. Knowing how the system works will give you invaluable knowledge for writing your own grants in the future.
Peer reviewers are responsible for reading, reviewing, and rating grant proposals submitted to the agency. In order to be selected as a peer reviewer, you must have relevant work experience or expertise in the area of the topic of the grant. Whatever the area, you must be able to convince the funding agency that you know the field well enough to fully understand the proposals, technical jargon and all. A college degree or two plus several years of work experience usually does the trick.
Finding Peer Reviewer Positions
To find open positions, go to the state or federal agency's website and search for "peer reviewers." Then submit your resume, highlighting your work experience and achievements relevant to the agency. There is no limit to the number of reviews you can be called to participate in. Of course you have the option to decline a peer review opportunity when the agency calls you if you are no longer available.
Most state grant agencies do not pay for travel expenses or for your time spent reviewing dozens of grant applications. Some federal agencies are able to compensate grant reviewers for their time, however.
Reviewing Grant Proposals
When you're chosen to participate in a particular funding decision making event, you'll receive an orientation packet detailing information of the overall process, deadlines, and how to submit completed reviews. Some reviews must be submitted by mail and others can be done electronically. After carefully reading and analyzing a given grant proposal, you'll need to write a careful summary of the application and at some point gathering with other peer reviewers to mutually discuss all of the proposals. You and the other reviewers will eventually come to a consensus as to which proposal is the best and should be funded.
By putting yourself on the other side of the grant application process and working as a grant peer reviewer, you will gain much insight into how the decision to award a given proposal is made. This in turn should translate into the ability to write grant proposals which include all the elements reviewers are looking for when they decide to fund a proposal.
By Jason Kay
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