Preparing a Full Proposal: Suggested Reviewers

This is one in a series of blog entries with tips for preparing a full proposal for the upcoming August 5, 2016 deadline for the IOS core programs track. It is not intended to be a complete set of instructions, rather to provide some tips about common issues and useful additional information. Please consult the current Grant Proposal Guide and the current IOS Core Programs solicitation (NSF 16-505) for complete instructions. As always, if you have questions contact your friendly program director!

There are a number of Single Copy and Supplementary Documents that may be submitted with an NSF proposal. The difference between them is their intended audience. Single copy documents are only seen by NSF staff, while supplementary documents are available to reviewers and to NSF. One of the documents that may be submitted is a list of suggested reviewers  to use and not to use. For IOS Core Programs proposals there are two ways this list can be submitted, as a single copy document (per the Grant Proposal Guide) or on the tabs of the Conflict Of Interest (COI) spreadsheet (per the IOS solicitation). Although providing suggested reviewers is entirely optional, it gives each Principal Investigator (PI) a chance to communicate a list of qualified reviewers (i.e., those who have relevant scholarly expertise) to the program director who will handle their proposal.

IOS COI spreadsheet submitted with IOS Core Programs proposals includes five tabs two of which can be used to indicate preferred and non-preferred reviewers

IOS COI spreadsheet submitted with IOS Core Programs proposals includes five tabs, two of which can be used to indicate preferred and non-preferred reviewers (click to enlarge)

This document is most helpful if the potential reviewer’s name, institution and email address are all provided. The spreadsheet also has columns to indicate a reviewer’s expertise and webpage. There is no limit to how many potential reviewers can be listed. Most program directors suggest providing 5-10 names. Generally, program directors try to obtain 2-3 ad hoc written reviews in addition to the panelist reviews and those ad hoc reviewers may come from those suggested by the PI. Individuals who are collaborators, have published with the PI/CoPI(s) in the last four years or are current or former graduate students of the PI/CoPI are considered to have a COI and thus are not appropriate suggested reviewers. Suggested reviewers should be individuals who can honestly assess the impact of the science and feasibility of the project as well as the likely success of the broader impacts activities. Suggested reviewers can come from a variety of institutions and career stages.  Suggested reviewers can include both U.S. and international scientists.  PIs should consider listing potential expert reviewers, if they are not in competition for funds as is the case for international scientists working in the same area but who would not apply to NSF. Program directors are not required to send the proposal to the individuals suggested by a PI but often use at least some reviewers on the list.

If there are individuals who a PI prefers not review the proposal, The PI may, but does not need to justify the request or provide a description of the issue. cases where there is a well-documented disagreement in the literature or a personal conflict should be included. Program directors make every effort to honor these requests both in ad hoc reviews and panelist assignments. PIs are cautioned, however, that listing every scientific competitor is not likely a good strategy because it can severely limit the number of experts available to review a proposal. This is a trade-off that PIs should carefully consider.

Read the next post in this series…