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Golden Rules for Grant Reviewers

Blue Lab Coats blogger DrdrA provides advice on crafting "useful" grant reviews. Reviews, she says, can "be very instructive if correctly written," though "totally useless if not carefully done." Considering that "more often than not, someone's career is on the line," DrdrA recommends that potential reviewers seriously consider whether they can dedicate the time and effort required to deliver the "most careful review" possible. According to DrdrA, it is of utmost importance that reviewers explain themselves thoroughly. For example, should reviewers think that a particular project aim is weak, they should "buttress that with the specific points about what exactly in those experiments is weak." Still, she writes, "being critical doesn't mean being negative, and it sure doesn't mean never pointing out a positive." Once they've compiled lists of a proposal's positives and negatives, reviewers should then "find a way to prioritize" each, so as to provide applicants with a sense of what can be improved and what's "unfixable." Finally, DrdrA stresses that reviewers "use professional" and situation-appropriate language. "Data — or lack thereof — is not 'disturbing,'" she writes, adding that "saying that a certain element 'would be nice' is unhelpful" and "unnecessary."

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