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Q&A with Ginny Selz, Senior Program Associate

Dr. Virginia (Ginny) Selz joined RCP this May as a Senior Program Associate and has been working on projects within our Peer Review and Short Courses program areas. Below is a Q&A with Ginny about her work so far in RCP and her views on the importance of peer review.

Can you tell us about your background prior to coming to AAAS?

Ginny: Prior to coming to AAAS, I spent time on each side of the grants management process. On the receiving end of grants, I obtained my PhD in the Earth Sciences at Stanford University and worked on STEM education programs to enhance research mentoring experiences and integrate research into curricula for K-12 and undergraduate students.  On the administering side of grants, I worked at the National Science Foundation (NSF) in the Division of Ocean Sciences on program competitions that ranged from large Science and Technology Center competitions to topic-specific programs such as Ocean Acidification.

What are you looking forward to working on with RCP?

Ginny: One of the things that most attracted me to work for AAAS RCP is the number of ways I could engage both my project management and research interests. In the near term, I am looking forward to getting to know the organizations RCP works with, while designing and managing peer review systems that are tailored to their specific needs. I am also excited to advance existing partnerships and cultivate new ones as we expand our short course curriculum, which provides more in-depth, hands-on training for organizations and their associated science communities.

In addition to working with national and international science communities, I am also interested in diving into the data on internal processes and external programs that RCP has been collecting over the last twenty years.  Insights from analyses may provide potential improvements to or areas of opportunity for our own programs and the organizations we work with.

What are you working on now?

Ginny: I am currently collaborating with RCP staff to develop and implement several large-scale, peer review systems for grant-making organizations in the Middle East (e.g., the King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology (KACST)).

Last year AAAS RCP provided consensus reviews for 1,118 proposals for KACST’s applied and basic research grants programs with the help of ~450 expert reviewers. I am gearing up for this year’s KACST competition!

In addition to the day-to-day management of peer review, I am also working with the RCP team to expand short course curricula in various professional development topics for scientists.

Why is peer review of proposals important to AAAS, and to RCP specifically?

Ginny: Peer review for grant competitions is a key mechanism through which AAAS can execute its mission – to advance science, engineering, and innovation throughout the world for the benefit of all people. In a world of limited funding, if we want to advance science, we need to design and implement systems that reward the best ideas, researchers, and research plans. Of course, the definition of best will vary. Maybe best means riskiest, or most innovative, or potential for largest economic impact. One of the ways that RCP furthers the AAAS mission is by working with organizations to help them identify how they define best and by designing and implementing peer review systems that result in recommendations, made by a consensus of experts, that assist organizations in making informed investments in science.   

Where do you see RCP expanding in terms of proposal review?

Ginny: We are increasing our volume of work that provides systematic support to grant-making organizations and will be providing guidance and support to more types of organizations abroad (i.e., Government agencies, Universities, Non-profit foundations, and Public-private partnership programs). This means that in addition to proposal review, we are working with organizations to develop and enhance policy, design programs, provide frameworks to measure outcomes and impacts, and train the organization’s program staff in these areas. Ultimately, as we work to build the capacity of the STEM ecosystem, it comes back to the AAAS mission -  to advance science, engineering, and innovation throughout the world for the benefit of all people.