Research Dissemination and the Need for Grants: A Basic Overview of the Funding Process, Part 4

Part 4 of 4: Read Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 now!

What happens after I’ve submitted my grant proposal and before I hear back?

Though I’ll be using the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), which is a federal grant agency, as an example for outlining this process, other federal grant agencies should reflect a similar form of rigor.

Note: Prior to submission, you may be able to get a program officer at the agency to look at a draft of your application. This opportunity is welcome with the NEH and will not affect any evaluation decisions after submission.

  1. Application submitted by Office of Sponsored Research: All applications come to the funder through a portal via
  2. Panel sort: Representative reviewers are selected, comprised of scholars and previous grantees, to provide a first evaluation level of grant applications. Reviewers are given applications to independently assess quality of content. Reviewers are chosen from various different types of fields so that the applications can be assessed in consideration of different perspectives. Each reviewer will make comments and assign a quality score to their assigned applications.
  3. Review panels: A small group of reviewers, plus an NEH program officer, will come together to discuss their collectively assigned applications. They will have the opportunity to declare their reasoning behind the scores they gave, and in consideration of the other reviewers’ comments, may or may not choose to change their score. The scores are given to the NEH staff and will be used in conjunction with the overall comments to help the next levels of evaluations. In some cases, this step is virtual instead of in a physical space, in which it would not be possible for reviewers to change their scores.
    1. Note: the peer reviewers are evaluating solely on the quality of the content, based on the agency’s review criteria, which will have been listed in the grant posting.
  4. Staff recommendations based on merit peer review evaluations.
  5. National Council review: Each council member is selected by the President every six years and have to go through Senate confirmation. They meet three times per year and evaluate the applications that are still being considered. A listing of the agency’s council members can be viewed online.
  6. Chairman’s decision: The Chairman of the agency makes the final evaluation. Information about the Chairman can be viewed online.
  7. Funding decision is finalized.
  8. Award notification.

The NEH provides details about this process on the NEH website here. As a comparison, a breakdown of the National Science Foundation’s process is described on the NSF website.

More Resources

  • Proposal guides collection hosted by the UNC-Chapel Hill Funding Portal
    Portal includes tips from NIH and NSF, as well as a collection of historic successful grant proposals from UNC-Chapel Hill.
  • Award Lifecycle overview by the Office for Sponsored Research at UNC-Chapel Hill
    Suggests various internal, external, and state resources; defines various components related to Concept and Funding, Proposal Creation, Proposal Submission, Award Negotiation, Award Setup, Award Management, and Project Closeout.
  • Funding and Doing Sponsored Research in the Humanities by Beyond the Book, a funded speaker series for graduate students at UNC-Chapel Hill
    Provides slides from 2019 presentations and basic explanations of funding, grants, research development planning, funding tools, and institutional memberships that UNC subscribes to to help faculty, staff, and students plan research.

Thanks for following along! If you have any further questions, you’re always welcome to contact us in the Scholarly Communications office in the University Libraries at UNC-CH.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.