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Implementing Internal Review Protocols at Academic Institutions Doubles Likelihood of External Grant Funding


Researchers at Columbia University School of Nursing have created a three-pronged approach to doubling the amount of successfully funded external research grants at its institution. Rooted in data from its own faculty and students, the first-of-its-kind study tracked the effectiveness of internal review protocols in securing funding over the course of a five-year period.


The school’s optional internal review protocol process began in 2012. It includes three main areas: 1) offering Intramural Pilot Grants to fund small research projects to collect preliminary data or support other scholarly work for grant preparation and submission; 2) a Specific Objectives and Aims Reviews (SOAR) Protocol in the form of a meeting during which the grant’s principal investigator presents the specific aims of a proposal in development to faculty members for guidance, feedback, and suggestions for revision; and 3) a Mock Review Protocol which is a live peer review of a grant by experts before it is submitted to a funding agency and is conducted in a manner similar to an National Institutes of Health (NIH) study section.


“Increasing research capacity is essential to establishing and maintaining funding on an ongoing basis,” said co-author Elaine L. Larson, PhD, and associate dean for research at Columbia Nursing. “However, securing such funding is also extremely competitive, which is why we began to implement internal review processes like mock reviews, SOAR protocols, and smaller intramural grants—and to measure these processes—to ensure our faculty and students have their best chance of success when submitting funding proposals.”


The study found that its pilot grants produced 16 peer-reviewed articles, 33 presentations, and 11 funded grants. For grant applications that underwent any type of internal review, 41.7 percent received funding compared with 20 percent that did not participate.


“The more you can vet grant proposals as an institution, the more you can catch potential issues prior to submission and enhance the likelihood a grant will be funded,” said co-author Kristine M. Kulage, MPH, director, Office of Scholarship. “Given the resources required to prepare grant applications, offering intramural pilot grants and conducting internal reviews are a good way to maximize an institution’s return on investment for the resources expended to submit grant applications.”


A full version of the study, published in Nursing Outlook, can be found here.