Managing internal funding is the most common way institutions and organizations use InfoReady Review™. In a recent webinar, panelists Gwynne Grasberger (Director, Research Strategic Planning) and Laura Dean (Proposal Development Administrator) from Drexel University and Alicia Feltner (Manager of Programs and Special Projects) from Indiana University shared best practices for structuring and facilitating these opportunities as their respective institutions. Maintaining consistency and transparency resonated as main themes for the panelists’ advice on managing a variety of internal funding competitions.
Setting Up Your Timeline
Administrators should give applicants and reviewers plenty of time to submit thoughtful, thorough responses. For opportunities that involve an external deadline (e.g., limited submissions), post the RFP to InfoReady Review™ at least 6 months in advance when possible. Strictly internal competitions like seed grants or faculty awards only need 2-3 months, depending on the complexity of the review process.
All panelists agreed the most challenging aspect to facilitating any internal funding opportunity is recruiting reviewers and keeping them engaged. The goal is always to maintain a large pool of reviewers across different disciplines, knowing that a 50% response rate is common. Drexel sends out a personalized email from their Provost asking faculty to volunteer as reviewers, where they note the applicability of the internal peer review process to having the same role for external agencies or publications. Serving on an internal review committee is often a gateway to being a reviewer for peer-reviewed journals. It is also an opt-in process, which ultimately leads to a higher response rate on review submissions.
Creating and Advertising the Opportunity
Within their templates, Drexel University requires the same uploads: a proposal narrative, CV/Biosketch, and budget information. Each of the three uploads must be one file in pdf format, which simplifies their application exports for reviewers and administrators.
Managing the Review Process
As applications start rolling in, administrators dive into their pool of reviewers to assign the most appropriate ones to each application. Indiana usually waits about a week after the application deadline to allow letters of support to come in (if necessary). Depending on the opportunity, they may ask past winners to be reviewers because they have a unique insight, especially for limited submissions.
Drexel focuses on keeping the review process consistent, no matter how many applications are submitted. They aim for three completed reviews per submission, so they often assign five or six reviewers initially. Reviewers are given two weeks to complete reviews, which is enough time to provide thorough responses but within a short enough window so the task is prioritized. To manage conflicts of interest, administrators educate their reviewers using a training module in the onboarding process and always avoid assigning reviewers from the same department, school, or college as the applicant.
Awarding (and Rejecting)
Both institutions involve senior leadership to make final award decisions. Drexel notifies applicants and shares reviewers’ anonymous comments and scores through InfoReady Review™. They also post their full award decision process on their website for transparency. Administrators at Indiana sends formal award decision notices to applicants outside the system, while making sure to enter award decisions within InfoReady Review™ for reporting purposes. Indiana only sends review feedback to applicants on a need-to-know basis, which helps keep their processes efficient.
Once award decisions have been made and applicants are notified, most of the activity for the internal funding opportunity is complete. Alicia recommends updating the competition template at this point while any revisions that came up in the process are fresh. Administrators can then archive the competition to get it out of their active queue. Drexel waits at least six months past the internal deadline to archive the competition in case they need to make any edits to applications or reviews.
InfoReady allows administrators to create and send post-award reports (called progress reports) to measure ROI for the project. Indiana also uses the system as a data pass through to their homegrown repository for historical information to make sure data is comparable to pre-InfoReady opportunities. Administrators can use a combination of competition-specific and sitewide reports to download and manipulate data in a variety of ways.
We want to thank Alicia, Gwynne, and Laura for sharing their insights on ways they manage internal funding opportunities using InfoReady. Their focus on consistency and transparency when facilitating these types of competitions demonstrates their commitment to thorough yet efficient processes.