More than 3,300 Reviews for 11 Funding Programs in the U.S. and Abroad
For over a decade, RCP has been working with universities, U.S. state and federal agencies, foundations, and national science organizations abroad to build research capacity through peer review. This past year, we provided 3,320 peer reviews for grant applications, pre-proposals, research progress reports, and a technology entrepreneurship prize competition (Tech-I). The majority of the competitions we worked on this past year involved a small batch of proposals (2-40 total) and close collaboration with the institution running the competition, allowing us to collaborate on a review model and criteria to fit the competition’s goals.
The topics of proposals for which we’ve recruited reviewers have varied across a range of STEM fields. Earlier this year, RCP provided consensus reviews of proposals on topics ranging from solar energy to medicine to ecosystem biology for the King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology (KACST) in Saudi Arabia. In April, we provided individual reviews of pre-proposals on materials science for a U.S. university and consensus reviews for biomedical proposals for the State of Connecticut’s innovation funding agency, Connecticut Innovations. This summer, we organized panel reviews of proposals to the University of North Carolina’s system-wide grant competition. We also have been working with Maine, Connecticut, and Rhode Island to provide technical reviews of proposals for projects leading to technology commercialization in fields ranging from translational medicine to industrial engineering.
In addition to proposal review, many of you have worked on the review of progress reports for 271 ongoing research projects funded by KACST. The ability to have continuity of feedback from the original reviewers strengthens that program significantly.
Finally, we have created a new Online Review System, which will greatly reduce the paperwork for confidentiality, conflict of interest, and honoraria, while maintaining easy access to the proposals and supporting documents.
Many of you have served on one of our panels. We want to let you know that the institutions you have assisted have consistently remarked on the high value of the feedback you’ve given. The reviews that you’ve worked on have qualities that are difficult to achieve internally—advice from leaders in the relevant scientific fields who have the impartiality and diversity of viewpoints needed in peer review. Your advice helps the funders make decisions and helps the applicants build skills and competitiveness, including those at smaller institutions who may not have regular experience applying to NSF and NIH. Both the funders and the applicants have thus greatly appreciated your work. So thank you.
STEM Program Assessments Span Institutions and Jurisdictions in 10 States
In the last year, RCP designed and led reviews of thirteen STEM programs in 10 U.S. states. RCP recruited and led expert panels to provide formative or summative assessments for NSF-funded EPSCoR programs in Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Utah, Vermont, Wyoming. In several cases the program reviewed involves university research consortia working across state borders. The formative assessments supported the projects to achieve their research goals, develop the Broader Impacts required by NSF, and improve project integration and communication across multiple partner institutions. The summative reviews captured the outcomes of research projects and their impacts and helped the grantees to develop sustainability plans.
RCP also evaluated the strength of state-wide biomedical research networks for six NIH-funded INBRE programs, including collaborations between Research I institutions and community and tribal colleges. The independent assessments that we carried out helped the INBRE projects to gain an external perspective on the challenges they face, including ideas about how those challenges have been solved in other parts of the country. The assessments also note major accomplishments and progress that might be overlooked by researchers busy with the day-to-day work on the project.
In all of the assessments that we’ve led in 2016, as in past years, we’ve worked with program leaders to design an assessment, define a site visit agenda, and recruit a panel of experts suited to each program’s context and stage in the funding cycle. The assessments are carried out through a site visit led by a senior RCP staff member together with 3-5 experts who facilitate a series of semi-structured meetings and facilities tours. After the site visit, the panel meets with project leaders to discuss key findings and then RCP compiles and edits a report by the panel summarizing the findings and listing priority recommendations for the program.
In 2017, RCP will be evaluating its own program assessment work over the last 3-4 years to quantify the impacts that we’ve observed from our annual and bi-annual site visits. Some of you may be hearing from us in our effort to capture the benefits of our assessments and to learn from your insights about the process. We have worked on STEM program assessment for 20 years, providing review of more than $1 billion in federally funded research programs, and we will continue to monitor our own work so that we are doing are best to support the institutions and PIs that we work with. If you’ve had the chance to serve as a panelist on one or our site visits, we thank you for the crucial role you’ve played in this work.
RCP Builds Capacity for Innovation and Entrepreneurship Internationally
In 2016, RCP expanded its work with several U.S. state innovation funds to build capacity for young technology entrepreneurs in 135 emerging economies through the 2016 GIST Tech-I Competition.
GIST Tech-I is part of the U.S. Department of State’s Global Innovation Through Science and Technology (GIST) initiative, and provides young S&T entrepreneurs with training, mentorship, and prize funding to advance their Idea and Startup phase technologies and to spark the expansion of technology entrepreneurship in their countries. RCP developed and implemented this year’s GIST Tech-I Competition, in close cooperation with the U.S. Department of State, receiving and reviewing over 1,000 applications from 104 emerging economies. After written review and public voting, 30 finalists were selected to travel to the Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Silicon Valley, where we organized a two-day training to prepare them to meet investors and give their pitches to a panel of judges. Their judges have continued as personal mentors following the pitch competition held at Stanford. More information about 2016 GIST Tech-I and the broader work of the GIST initiative can be found at GISTnetwork.org.
In addition to our new work this year on GIST Tech-I, we continued to provide peer-review of the technical proposals to state innovation funds in Maine and Connecticut. The Maine Technology Institutes’ Maine Development Loan program offers up to $500,000 to Maine companies developing technologies in six priority sectors including energy, advanced manufacturing, and composite materials. MTI’s goal is to boost economic development and create jobs throughout the state, frequently using innovations coming out of the state’s universities. In Connecticut, Connecticut Innovations organizes a variety of competitions and investment programs for which we’ve provided comprehensive technical reviews.
Earlier this year, RCP also launched the AAAS Entrepreneur community on Facebook and Twitter as a platform for AAAS to promote entrepreneurship within the S&T community. To keep up-to-date on all of RCP’s entrepreneurship initiatives, we encourage you to follow the AAAS Entrepreneur feeds. Looking forward to next year, RCP will continue to apply it’s expertise in capacity building, peer review, institutional assessment, and training to advance STEM entrepreneurship in the U.S. and abroad.
RCP Expands Its Workshop Curricula to Build Capacity for Research Competitiveness
In the last twelve months, the Research Competitiveness Program has designed and organized workshops in five countries, and a sixth workshop is planned for December 2016 in Kuwait.
In the first half of 2016, RCP created a workshop series at the request of the U.S. Department of State’s Global Innovation through Science and Technology Initiative (GIST) to address the needs of technology entrepreneurs in Côte d’Ivoire, Nigeria, and Mozambique. This workshop series, called GIST Women’s Village Workshops, complemented the annual workshop for Finalists in the GIST Tech-I competition (discussed elsewhere in the Annual Update) that RCP organized this June at the Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Silicon Valley.
In the GIST Women’s Village Workshops, almost 100 participants learned to identify and expand the members in their entrepreneurship networks so that their technologies could better contribute to economic growth. The workshop complemented traditional technology entrepreneurship training by guiding the participants to think analytically about the exact types of support they need to build their small, tech-based business. Our 6-month impact assessment for the first workshop in the series held in March in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire shows that on average each participant expanded her network by 80% and trained more than 60 others using information and materials from the workshop. The GIST Women’s Village workshop series was a key component of President Obama’s commitment made in Nairobi, Kenya in 2015 to support technology entrepreneurship in Africa.
In addition to the GIST workshops, RCP developed and led a workshop in July to train researchers on proposal writing. The five-day workshop in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia prepared participants to identify international funding opportunities and develop competitive proposals, with a special emphasis on U.S. Government funding for infectious disease research abroad. Following the workshop, RCP has continued to mentor two teams of participants from abstract drafting through drafting their full proposals. The workshop was sponsored by Metabiota, which works on emerging disease epidemiology around the world, under funding from the U.S. Cooperative Biological Engagement Program.
Later this fall, RCP will be leading a workshop for researchers from Kuwaiti universities and research hospitals, funded by with the Kuwait Foundation for the Advancement of Science (KFAS), to share experience and insight with Kuwaiti researchers in accessing international funding and developing competitive proposals.
In all of our workshops we quantify the long-term impacts as well as knowledge acquisition during the workshop. In next year’s Annual Update we look forward to sharing the impacts measured from our proposals development workshops this year, comparing baseline data from participants about their work coming into the workshop and their responses to the same questionnaire 9-12 months after the workshop.