How the Grant Review Process is Organized

Ever wonder how the fruits of your labor transform into an awarded grant? As someone who has been on the side of the grantor, I can tell you the review process can be rigorous.

I will share with you some of the review process.  Put some thought into who will write your grant that will be under the microscope before an award.  You can find skilled grant writers through

Review Board

The Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) creates review panels. Grants are selected for certain panels based on CNCS Focus Areas, program models, program focus, issue areas, service categories, target service audience, and organization type. The panel members are chosen based on expertise and skill. 

Other grants are peer-reviewed.  For National Institute of Health (NIH) grants, peer review meetings are administered by either the Center for Scientific Review (CSR) or an institute or center of the NIH. Scientific Review Groups (SRG) are led by a Scientific Review Officer (SRO), which is made up of non-federal scientists with expertise in relevant disciplines and current research areas.

During the first level of review the SRO, the designated federal office for each application, completes the following tasks:

  • Analyze the content of each application, and check for completeness.
  • Document and manage conflicts of interest.
  • Recruit qualified reviewers based on scientific and technical qualifications and other considerations, including:
    1. Authority in their scientific field
    2. Dedication to high quality, fair, and objective reviews
    3. Ability to work collegially in a group setting
    4. Experience in research grant review
    5. Balanced representation
  • Assign applications to reviewers for critique preparation and assignment of individual criterion scores.
  • Attend and oversee administrative and regulatory aspects of peer review meetings.
  • Prepare summary statements for all applications reviewed.

Finding Reviewers

The Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) has an uncompromising technique to find reviewers. First, they screen reviewers for conflict of interest. In other words, if the reviewer’s private interests and official responsibilities are in conflict, they cannot review the grant. Then, they require that reviewers maintain confidentiality about any information they obtained or produced as a grant reviewer. CNCS also trains external reviewers to avoid bias.

Merit Review Process

The merit review process focuses on two criteria:

  • intellectual merit
  • broader impact

If you want to learn more about what is known as the Merit Review Process, used by both the NIH and National Science Foundation (NSF), check out the hearing from July 26, 2011. The Merit Review Process: Ensuring Limited Federal Resources are Invested in the Best Science explains that the merit review process has experts in relevant fields review grant applications through the mail, in-person at a panel review, or a combination of both.

With safeguards like these, you can be guaranteed that your application will be met with great scrutiny and a fair review.

Remember to convey your mission and goals meaningfully. Also include a projected budget which will inform the grantor how you will allocate funds.

To request a grant writer to help you with your grant application process, go to