Collect the Data You Need...Before You Need It (Pt. 1)
Data informs research, and research generates more data. From an operations perspective, the constant activity also generates application, review, and follow up data. Within all this churning and reporting, it can be easy to lose site of what types of information are best to collect. Depending on how you are organized and how you manage data, this can be either a virtuous or vicious cycle.
Administrators have a unique challenge of making sure the information reviewers need to properly assess each proposal is gathered during the application submission process. They are usually also the ones assigning reviewers and subject matter experts to specific proposals. In terms of designing your data collection process, it is often best to work backwards from the end. Administrators can save valuable time by asking applicants upfront for information they may need later in the review process. Here are some data points to consider collecting:
Primary organization - What is the applicant or principal investigator’s (PI) department or affiliation? Collecting this info from the standardized, systemwide hierarchy in InfoReady Review keeps data clean.
Conflicts of interest - Who should be recused as a reviewer on their proposal (and why)? Add a text box to collect this info, which prevents back-and-forth emails and re-assignments during the review stage.
File uploads - What supplemental info will reviewers need? If they will evaluate the PI’s historical contribution to the field, a CV should be a required upload. Assessing budget? Include a template to simplify the process for applicants and reviewers.
Co-applicants - Who else worked on this proposal? Gathering data on collaborators can be useful to avoid reviewers from the same department (or worse, from their own application).
Past awards and grants - Has this applicant ever received this same or other internal awards and funding? Knowing the answer may affect eligibility, who is assigned to review, or what the routing process should be for the application.
Bottom line: Look at your review process and ask: “Will our reviewers be able to evaluate the criteria we’ve asked them based on the current application components?” If the answer is “No”, return to the application form and add fields or file uploads to make sure reviewers will have all the information they need. The questions on the application form should relate to the scoring rubric you have established. Add instructions for applicants to clarify how each section should be completed. Spending a little extra time on these refining details will reduce questions and emails once the submission and review processes are under way.
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