Written by Elizabeth England and Tricia Patterson.
One of the projects the 2018 NDSR Advisory Group worked on was creating grant proposal evaluation criteria for future program applications. We (Elizabeth England and Tricia Patterson) co-led this project, and it was an important undertaking for a few reasons.
- It helped the NDSR Advisory Group define – both for ourselves and for the public – what we regard as components of a successful NDSR program
- It provided a checklist with areas of consideration for potential grant applicants as they prepare proposal drafts
- It shaped a consistent set of metrics for the NDSR Advisory Group to informally evaluate proposal drafts and provide applicants with feedback.
As noted at the top of the evaluation criteria document, the NDSR Advisory Group does not review grants on behalf of funders and cannot guarantee the outcome for any proposal. Rather, the evaluation criteria provide an opportunity for the Advisory Group to help ensure the inclusion of certain elements in the program design that wouldn’t necessarily hinder a successful grant application, but based on our experience as past residents, mentors, advisors, and administrators, it would hinder a successful NDSR program if not addressed in the program design.
We began by assembling a list of resources that included past program grant proposals, the NDSR Handbook and Toolkit, as well as the CLIR Report, “Keepers of our Digital Future: An Assessment of the National Digital Stewardship Residencies, 2013-2015.” After reviewing the most salient points from these references, we broke down the sections that were the most important to provide recommendations for, based on past successes. Outside of what a granting institution might require, we wanted future grant applications to consider what experience has taught participants about program success – in terms of the geographic distribution of residents, how curriculum is distributed, what deliverables are expected, and so on.
Finally, the rest of the Advisory Group provided feedback to refine our final draft. During this stage, a couple of points generated more conversation than others. For example, requiring that the host institution or the program provide healthcare has not always been a program requirement. Like many of our field’s conversations surrounding fair terms and compensation, we debated what our message should be going forward. We agreed that this should be “highly recommended,” as a way to strongly encourage future programs to adopt this even though it has not been a requirement in the past. Another strong recommendation that deviates from some of the past programs is that residencies be a full year term, to provide more in-depth engagement with critical learning, problem-solving at the host institution, and ease relocation and housing considerations for the resident.
We hope the evaluation criteria will be useful to those considering, or in progress of, writing an NDSR program proposal. We also believe it may be applicable to non-NDSR residency models. Please reach out to the Advisory Group for advice on designing a successful NDSR program!