Friday, 16 September 2011

Responding to Reviewers' Comments: Notes from Grants Factory Session

What turns panellists against an application? For Peter Bennett, who has had experience reviewing applications for NERC and other funders, it’s arrogance. ‘There’s no greater turn off in a grant application,’ he said at Wednesday’s Grants Factory event. Applicants should practice humility, and let the facts speak for themselves. Avoid bombast, pomposity and exaggerated claims. Successful proposals talk with assurance, clarity and confidence, and they respect the opinions of reviewers and panellists.

A good application ‘makes sense’, and doesn’t need to swagger. It will be built on a strong track record and a well-matched research environment, will acknowledge the key previous works, and will contain an unbreakable kernel of original, significant work.

Bad applications, on the other hand, are bloated beasts. Pedestrian and dull, they shout their ignorance, and betray their hasty construction with flawed methodology, speculative theory, and a lack of focus. The applicant’s limp track record drags along behind, and the whole just doesn’t hang together well.

When it comes to replying to the reviewers, then, it is the measured, thoughtful, clear attitude that will win through. Don’t flare up and respond in haste. Step back, take time, and plan your response. Extract the criticisms from the text, and work out how you will respond to them. All of them should be treated as valid, even if you feel that some are ridiculous. Remember, humility: thank the reviewers for their comments, and either:
  • Address their concerns head on: if their feedback is valid, say that you have taken it on board, have made the necessary changes, and that the proposal is stronger as a result;
  • Sweeten the pill: if their feedback is invalid, say that you consider it to be an interesting idea, but that the nature of the current project would not allow you to incorporate their suggestions, and that it might be possible to do so in a future project.
Respond to all the comments with humility, respect and honesty; it will get you much more of a hearing than if you rail and swear and curse.

Peter’s slides will be available on the Research Services website shortly.

No comments:

Post a Comment