We are about two thirds of the way through our spring 2017 granting cycle, and I am sure many of you who have applied this time are wondering what is going on over there in the grants department at The Leakey Foundation. So, I thought I would tell you about the different stages of our spring cycle and give you an idea of where we are right now.
The spring granting cycle begins.
Immediately after the application deadline, the grants department begins the Audit Stage. This is the time when we make sure that all the pieces of the applications have been submitted and contact applicants if needed. We check to make sure all of the applications are within our purview (we do not fund projects about traveling to Mars), and we begin assigning peer reviewers and soliciting reviewer suggestions from our Scientific Executive Committee (SEC). The audit stage of our spring cycle typically lasts just over a month.
Once we have assigned peer reviewers, we begin the Peer Review Stage of the cycle.
Our goal is to receive at least two peer reviews from relevant experts in the field for each proposal. Because of this, we have to send out more requests than that to reach our goal. You are busy people! With huge workloads, prior commitments, field work, etc. many of our potential peer reviewers must decline our request. That said, we still receive numerous reviews each cycle. This spring we received over 250 reviews (for 102 applications) along with corresponding grades (we use an A,B,C… ranking system). The spring Peer Review Stage lasts about a month and a half.
We are always thankful for our peer reviewers. We could not do it without you!
Next is the SEC Review Stage, which is where we are currently.
We collate all of the peer reviews and send them to the SEC. Relevant members of our SEC then review the proposals, using the peer reviews as reference. This stage of the cycle typically lasts a few weeks.
We are a little different.
One of the main differences between the way we and other organizations that fund similar projects make granting decisions is that our Scientific Executive Committee makes the final decision. Other organizations typically use assembled panels of reviewers, but the final decision is made by the president or program director, sometimes in consultation with the panel.
For us, once the SEC Review Stage is complete, we combine all the grades into one large spreadsheet and then rank the proposals. We then have two conference calls (one for behavioral proposals and one for the paleoanthropology proposals) where the SEC decides which proposals they would like to fund. Decisions are not based solely on rank. They are also based on funding priorities of the foundation as well as discussions that ensue during these important calls.
Once decisions are made, our SEC and Board of Trustees meet at our bi-annual Granting Session. The SEC presents each recommended proposal to our Board of enthusiastic science supporters. Once the proposals have been presented, our Board then votes to approve funding. In the spring this meeting occurs at the end of April.
Then we send out notifications.
We usually send out the spring notifications in the first week of May. One of the benefits of applying for a Leakey Foundation Research Grant is that the applicant receives feedback (the reviews) from peer reviewers and SEC members in an anonymous way. Even if we do not fund a project that cycle, it is our goal to help applicants improve or change their proposal in order to increase the chances of future funding from us or other organizations.
That is it! As I said, we are now in the SEC Review Stage. We will soon have those important conference calls and then the presentations to the board.
We wish you the best of luck in your endeavors. The grants department is here to help. If you have any questions about the cycle or the application process, feel free to contact us at [email protected].