If you have already looked at the proposal documentation for your chosen funding agency, you will probably be aware of the proposal assessment criteria for the scheme that is appropriate for your proposal. Funders vary in how explicit they make these criteria and how detailed they are. Some will give an overall purpose for the scheme, as where a competition is established for a suite of research projects or fellowships on a specified topic. The criteria will then be listed for judging how far proposals contribute to fulfilling this purpose. Others simply list proposal assessment criteria. But minimally, each funding agency will identify broad official criteria as the basis for selecting amongst the proposals submitted to it. Indicatively, the ESRC research proposal assessment criteria which assessors and reviewers are required to use in evaluating proposals are very broad, since they cover a diversity of schemes:
· originality/potential contribution to knowledge
· research design and methods
· value for money
· plans for outputs, dissemination and pathways to impact
· adherence to the ESRC principles of ethical research wherever applicable
· (and where appropriate, fit to the specification for a particular competition)
Any statement of purpose and the assessment criteria will necessarily be quite broad because they are designed to cover a range of possible topics and approaches. But they are never universal: they set parameters governing what will be judged as fundable in principle, and what will not.
The bad news is that the less clear assessors and reviewers are that your proposal supports any aim and meets the criteria (or worse, the clearer they are that your proposal does not comply), the greater your chances of a negative evaluation and your proposal being rejected. But the good news is that the more you can show how your proposal will contribute towards any aim for the scheme and as fully as possible to all the criteria, the better your chances of a favourable evaluation by the assessors and reviewers, and so of approval for funding.