When thinking about EU project proposal writing, the most effort seems to be allocated to the conceptualisation. Then comes the actual writing (discussed in one of our previous blogs). One important stage that needs to be accounted for is the final stage when you need to review your proposal. As International Cooperation Manager a big part of my job is not only writing proposals but reviewing them too.
This is an incredibly important part of the overall proposal submission process, and if done right, can save your proposal and result in a project approval!
Reviewing proposals, however, can be daunting. For RIA Horizon 2020 proposals they are 70 pages for the first sections. This is 70 pages that you have already written and know about in depth. With no new information, it can be tiring to read and re-read about your project.
Have a read of the tips I use when reviewing the proposals that we are involved in. Let’s take it from the easiest to the most difficult parts!
1. Take it section by section
An easy way to make this process easier is to break it up into sections. Maybe review the Excellence section (section 1) in the morning. Then take a break to focus on the other work you have to do. Answer your emails, argue with your boss, whatever! The human mind can only do one thing for so long, so taking a break in the middle can refresh your mind and leave you ready to look at the next parts.
Once the in-depth review is done in sections read the proposal through all at once. Make sure it is cohesive and more than the just the sum of its parts.
2. Get rid of distractions
As with any task that you want to complete well, it is important to avoid distractions. This is especially important for the reviewing stage of the proposal submission. This is when you need to be sharp, to catch any mistakes big or small. Find a quiet room, or if you can’t, put on some instrumental music (this is what I personally do, classic movie scores help me concentrate while being motivated!). If you are really dedicated then maybe you can put an “Out of Office” on your email for a few hours!
3. Pay attention to spelling and grammar
This tip is pretty obvious but there are some sneaky grammar and spelling errors that can slip by. Is conceptualisation spelt like that, or is it conceptualization? Are all sections in the third person and professionally sounding? Are all the acronyms correct? If you are unsure, have a native English-speaker look it over too!
4. Think like an evaluator
It’s time to put yourself in someone else’s shoes. What will the evaluators be looking for in your proposal? You can do some meditation, a training montage and try to swap minds with an evaluator… or the EC have already provided instructions as to what the evaluators are looking out for! Do a self-assessment and see whether your proposal matches up to what the EC is really looking for.
5. Be objective
This may be the hardest part but, try to be as objective as possible. You may have been writing this project for months, and thinking about it for even longer but the evaluators haven’t. You need to build on this last tip and really look at your proposal from objective eyes. Have you been putting off a section because someone else wrote it? Try not to judge these two sections differently. The mistakes made by others may well be in the sections you have written also. Has another partner/reviewer highlighted a weak point in the science or implementation? Do not take it personally and do not ignore it. Though it may not fit exactly to your agenda, a bit of change to your original plan is better than not having this plan win at all!
Hopefully, these tips can help during the difficult process of reviewing your proposal. What is the most/least interesting stage of proposal writing in your opinion? If you need expert Impact evaluation, drop us a mail at firstname.lastname@example.org!
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