IOS Virtual Office Hours: Co-review, how does it work?

Projects submitted to the Division of Integrative Organismal Systems (IOS) are integrative and cross-disciplinary in nature, and in many cases, review is warranted by more than one cluster. Program Directors in IOS held a Virtual Office Hour (July 11th, 2019) focused on co-review processes.

Examples of co-review at NSF

  • Co-review can occur between two clusters within a Division, for example between the Neural Systems and Developmental Systems Clusters in IOS.
  • Also, it can occur between Divisions in the Biological Sciences Directorate (e.g., Behavioral Systems in IOS and Evolutionary Processes in the Division of Environmental Biology).
  • Co-review can even occur between different Directorates, for example between the Physiological and Structural Systems Cluster in the Biology Directorate, and one in the Directorate for Engineering.
  • All of these forms of co-review happen regularly at NSF.

Co-review and panels

Co-reviewed proposals may be reviewed by two separate review panels. Alternatively, a Program Director could suggest ad hoc reviewers (e.g., outside, non-panelist reviewers) who are specialists in certain content. In some of these cases the Program Director may attend the panel of the co-reviewing program. This variation in how co-review occurs gives Program Directors flexibility in the timing of reviews so that decisions regarding funding can be handled effectively and quickly, and with the best information for our decisions. Speaking of funding decisions, it is often thought that a co-reviewed proposal must do well during review by both panels or programs to be funded. This is not necessarily the case. A co-reviewed proposal may review strongly for Program A but not as strongly for Program B; Program A may still choose to fund this proposal. If a proposal reviews strongly in both programs, then the programs might share the funding of the proposal.

The role of the PI in the co-review process

Typically, you do not need to indicate at proposal submission that you think your proposal should be co-reviewed, nor do you need to indicate which additional programs you think need to review your proposal unless specified in the funding opportunity. For example, Rules of Life track proposals are submitted to one cluster and the investigator indicates a co-review cluster. Be sure to always read the directions on the solicitation, program, or funding track you are applying to so that you know if you need to do something about co-review.

The more typical path is that you do not worry about co-review, however Program Directors don’t mind if you send a short note after you’ve submitted your proposal alerting us to the possibility that your proposal might fit for a co-review with another cluster – especially if you’ve got one in mind. Program Directors read all the proposals assigned to them, and we regularly reach out to our fellow directors across the foundation and ask their opinions about co-review. We’re always working to make sure that proposals get the best review possible so that we have the best information at our disposal when making our funding recommendations.

Our next Virtual Office Hour will be on August 15th, 2019, at 1 pm EST and we will talk about the NSF Research Traineeship (NRT) program. Dr. Laura Regassa, an NRT program director in the Directorate for Education and Human Resources will join us to help with your questions and provide advice on submitting proposals to NRT.