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Guidelines for Writing Comments for the PI

Reviewers must provide comments and a scientific rank for each proposal. The comments must be written in English, and they will be sent anonymously to PIs without any editing by the JAO. In addition, PIs will be provided the rank from each Reviewer. 

Thoughtful comments from the Reviewers can help PIs improve their proposed project and write stronger proposals in the future. Below, we provide some guidelines to assist Reviewers in writing useful comments.



1. Summarize both the strengths and weaknesses of the proposal.

  • A summary of both the strengths and weaknesses can help PIs write future proposals by understanding what aspects of the project are strong, and which aspects need to be improved in any future proposals.
  • Comments should focus on the major strengths and major weaknesses. Avoid giving the impression that a minor weakness was the cause of a poor ranking. Many proposals do not have obvious weaknesses but are just less compelling than others: in such a case, acknowledge that the considered proposal is good but that there were others that were more compelling.  
  • Take care to ensure that the strengths and weaknesses do not contradict each other.
  • When possible, suggest ways to improve the proposals to address the weaknesses.

2. Avoid simply summarizing the proposal.

  • The purpose of the review is to evaluate the scientific merits of the proposal, not to summarize it. While you may provide a concise overview of the proposal, it should not constitute the bulk of the comments.

3. Be objective.

      • Be specific as possible when commenting on the proposal. Avoid generic statements that could apply to most proposals.
      • If necessary, provide references to support your critique.
      • Do not comment on the experience of the proposal team. Proposals are evaluated on the scientific merit of the proposal and not the experience of the proposal team. 

4. Be concise.

      • The reviewer comments to the PI are limited to a maximum of 4000 characters. A typical review will be a few sentences in length.

5. Be professional and constructive.

      • It is never appropriate to write inflammatory or inappropriate comments even if you think a proposal could be greatly improved.
      • Use complete sentences when writing your comments. We understand that many Reviewers are not native English speakers, but please try to use correct grammar, spelling, and punctuation.

6. Be aware of unconscious bias.

      • We all have biases and we need to make special efforts to review the proposals objectively. A discussion of unconscious bias is provided here.

7. Re-read your comments and scientific rankings.

      • Once you have completed your assessments, re-read your comments and ask how you would react if you received it. If you feel that the comments would upset you, revise them. 
      • Check to see if the strengths and weaknesses in the comments are consistent with the scientific rankings.  If not, consider revising the comments or the rankings.