July 17, 2019

4 Tips to Expedite a Limited Submission Internal Review

Are you scrambling to select your university's top proposals for limited submission opportunities? Learn four tips for speeding up the process without losing quality control.

To put your university in the best position for limited submission funding, you need to carefully compare potential applicants. However, a lengthy review process also means the principal investigator has less time to deliver a strong final proposal. (Especially if you discovered the opportunity just before the deadline!)

This can feel like a Catch-22. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

We’ll share four tips for shortening your pre-selection timeline so your chosen grant applicant has the best chance for success. 

1. Ditch PDF Forms

Many universities have a clear process for internal review, but their tools create unnecessary steps (and potential for problems). 

If you’re asking applicants to complete a PDF form, that means someone in your department needs to save all the information and redistribute to the reviewers. Attachments can easily get lost along the way. Plus, it’s an administrative hassle.

By implementing an online application form, everything is stored in a single location automatically - both answers and attachments. While a tool like Google Forms is a good start, it often exports the information into a simple spreadsheet, which isn’t ideal for the review process. 

A grant management system, on the other hand, is designed with both the applicant and reviewer in mind. Everyone has access to the same information (the applicant, reviewer, and administrator) and it’s saved in an easy-to-read format with no worries about version control.

Grant management software also allows applicants to create an online account. This speeds up the process in two ways:

  • Applicants can view and edit their information after submission.
  • If applicants are submitting multiple proposals (or re-submitting after reviewer comments), they won’t have to enter the same information twice.

2. Share a Reviewer Portal

For busy faculty and staff, it can be tough to stay on top of deadlines. But falling behind on your internal schedule steals time away from preparing the final proposal. Make it easy for your reviewers by offering a single portal with everything they need.

You might already be using something like SharePoint or Google Drive to keep all your files accessible to reviewers. This is a step in the right direction. However, when your reviewers get started, they probably have multiple tabs open - the various pages of the application, emails from other committee members, and your evaluation form.

A grant management system brings all these pieces together in one place. After logging into a branded reviewer portal, they’ll see their assigned proposals. Your review committee will be able to:

  • View the application and scorecard side-by-side
  • Send messages to other reviewers or the applicant
  • Make notes right inside the application. 

It’s a much simpler experience. As long as they have their login, they’re good to go.

3. Standardize Scoring

While we’re on the topic of simplifying, let’s talk about standardizing your scorecard. This will help your reviewers know what to expect, which means they’ll move more quickly through their evaluations. 

But how do you do this? 

While every limited submission opportunity is different, there are certain criteria that you’ll evaluate for each one. For example:

  • Principal investigator and team qualifications
  • Scientific merit and feasibility
  • Alignment with the university's strategic plan
  • Broader value to the community

Start by identifying your university’s standard criteria for all limited submissions. Define them clearly in a written policy, along with the scoring ranges and how to apply them. 

Then, for each opportunity, identify which criteria were specifically added to address the unique requirements of the sponsoring agency or the focus of the research. To maintain consistency, use the same scale. For example, 1 = exceeds expectations, 2 = meets expectations , 3 = does not meet expectations.

There’s no need to reinvent the wheel with each opportunity, even if they are from various sponsors.

Using grant management software, you can easily add criteria to the scorecard or shift the weight of each criterion. As the administrator, this will make calculations simple for you -- and fair to applicants. 

4. Automate Reporting 

Typically, the university’s research department has a review team for limited submissions, but a single person makes the final decision. How do you put together a report for their final sign-off? Are you copying and pasting together a report in Word? 

What if you need to prepare a status report of all open opportunities? Have you been sorting and exporting from Excel?

Each of these tasks eats up valuable time. Rather than manually creating a report every time, a grant management system allows you to design your own automated report. Create it once and then click a button to pull the data you need in the format you want.

For example, you could create a Limited Submission Decision Sign-off Report. It could include a brief synopsis of the opportunity and the committee’s recommended applicant. Then, a summary page with the scores and comments for each applicant. You could export to Word or Google Docs and customize further, or simply export as a PDF.


Speed and quality don’t always make a good pair. But if you make some strategic changes to your internal review process, you can have both. And that’s a win for your limited submission applicants and your university.

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