Jerry M. Lewis, M.D. Mental Health Research Foundation
III. Evaluation of the Application
The Reviewers, the Review Criteria, and the Review Process
We rely on highly skilled reviewers. All are senior mental health professionals with many years of experience as psychotherapists, teachers, and clinical research directors. All have had long involvement with the Foundation and are intimately familiar with its history and mission. Each reviewer independently reads every application and completes a form entitled Grant Application Evaluation. This form directs the reviewer to address the 12 areas of concern listed. The reviewer notes under each category whether the application fulfills this area of concern or falls short in some fashion.
The reviewer records notes concerning the application’s clarity, completeness, and compliance with guidelines.
The degree of fit with the Lewis Foundation mission is indicated.
Feasibility involves the reviewer’s judgment of whether the project described can be accomplished by the people listed for the amount of money requested over the time frame indicated. Experienced researchers can readily make a ballpark estimate of how many people working how many hours it takes and what financial resources are required to conduct a project of any given description over a given time frame. The appropriateness of the research design, methodology, staffing, and time frame to the project goals are noted as is the presence within the application of an IRB approval letter or the IRB Sample Guidelines as well as the research project consent form.
The reviewer notes the presence or absence of scientific importance and of any creative or innovative elements that promise meaningful advancement of the science of interpersonal relationships.
Practical or applied importance is described as is the adequacy and appropriateness of the budget. Budget items that are unclear will draw a request for clarification, while those that seem excessive or inappropriate will be reduced or deleted by the reviewer.
The reviewer notes whether there is an adequate plan for dissemination of results and the presence or absence of verification of the organization’s nonprofit status.
Projects being conducted entirely or in large part by for-profit entities as consultants to a nonprofit organization are not acceptable. A project conducted by a social service agency under the direction of an individual mental health professional employed as a consultant by that agency is acceptable, but we do not fund projects conducted by for-profit organizations on behalf of an agency.
The reviewer makes a judgment concerning the applicant’s need for funding (that is, does the project entail significant expenses) and the reviewer notes his or her impressions regarding the qualifications of the project staff and the institutional context if such information is known.
We do not routinely request site visits, so this item is often left blank.
The reviewer then makes a written recommendation, either for rejection (with a list of clear reasons for rejection), encouragement of reapplication (with a clear statement of additions or modifications that would improve the viability of the project), or consideration as is by the Board of Trustees for funding. The recommendation for consideration by the board includes the amount of funding the reviewer feels is justified, which is often, but not always, the full amount requested.
These independent evaluations are followed by a lengthy conference of the reviewers in which new ideas often are generated. The goal of this conference is to arrive at an understanding concerning rejection, resubmission, or acceptance of each grant application. A list of questions or concerns regarding a given application may be provided to the Foundation Director, who is then asked to contact the applicant to request additional information, or suggest project additions or modifications. Following these interactions, the reviewers may meet for a second lengthy conference and work to develop a clear and concise recommendation regarding each grant application for submission to the board at its next official meeting.
The Board Decision
The Foundation’s Board of Trustees meets every January, May, and September. An integral part of these meetings involves the board’s examination of each grant application. All board members have been provided copies of the grant applications two weeks before the board meeting for their careful review. In addition, they are provided a written set of recommendations from the reviewers in the board meeting itself. The board may or may not wish to accept the reviewers’ recommendations. As you may well imagine, when the discussion moves from a group of senior professional reviewers to a considerably larger mixed group of business and community leaders and mental health professionals, the content and the dynamics of the discussion change. New questions are raised and new issues explored. The board makes its decisions with great care and deliberation as it seeks to offer support for well designed projects in our mission area whenever possible.