SRSA Internal Peer Review Program

 

The SRSA Internal Peer Review Program is a new initiative launched by the St. Michael’s Hospital Student Research Association (SRSA) which provides St. Michael’s Hospital trainees with an opportunity to receive a full peer review of their scholarship applications prior to submitting to the granting agency. The program is confidential, collegial and 100% trainee-run.

We aim to:

i) Provide trainees the opportunity to receive feedback on their scholarship application to improve it and increase their chance of success.

ii) Give trainees the opportunity to get grant reviewing experience.

iii) Promote a collaborative environment amongst trainees throughout the research institution.

Applications & Forms

Looking to become a reviewer? Recruitment of Reviewers form

Hoping to submit your application? Scholarship Submission form

Please feel free to leave any comments or suggestions. Feedback Survey

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

The SRSA Internal Peer Review Program is a trainee-run program by the St. Michael’s Hospital Research Student Association (SRSA). It provides St. Michael’s Hospital trainees with an opportunity to receive a full peer review of their scholarship application prior to submitting to the grant agency. The program is confidential and collegial, and aims at providing in-depth constructive feedback to help improve the application. 

The aims of this program are to:

i) Provide trainees the opportunity to receive feedback on their scholarship application to improve it and increase their chance of success.

ii) Give trainees the opportunity to get grant reviewing experience.

iii) Promote a collaborative environment amongst trainees throughout the research institution.

Any trainee supervised or co-supervised by a St. Michael’s Hospital scientist is eligible to submit their applications for review. This includes all trainees working towards their master’s, PhD or working as a Postdoctoral Fellow.

Please note that depending on the volume of applications, we may also accept applications from co-op, summer, internship and/or other students. Please send us an email at srsa@smh.ca to check the status of our program in accepting these applications! Make sure you submit as early as possible, to allow ample time for addressing the comments. 

As many times as you want! On very rare occasions where the volume of submissions exceeds our reviewer pool, we may give priority to first-time applicants. If that is the case, we will notify you as soon as possible. 

A minimum of two weeks* before your granting agency’s deadline, although we recommend three to four weeks to allow sufficient time for incorporating feedback.  We encourage trainees to submit their applications as early as possible!

Please take the following timelines into account:

i) Up to 48 hours for pairing after submission of your materials.

ii) 24 hours for reviewers to confirm availability.

iii) One week turnover for reviewers.

iv) 48 hour grace period that can be used by reviewers under exceptional circumstances.

v) Any additional delays due to reviewer unavailability, re-assigning or other concerns.

* Please note that this is a non-negotiable deadline. As you can see, even with two weeks you may only have a couple of days to incorporate your reviewers’ feedback.

Each document submitted will receive feedback and/or will be edited. We will only accept the following documents in relation to your application. You should indicate which of the below documents you are submitting on the Scholarship Submission form so that we may keep track of your submission.

i) Research proposal

ii) Lay summary

iii) Letter of intent/personal statement

iv) CV/CCV*

Please note you do not have to submit all of these documents, even if they are required by your grant agency. You should only submit the documents for which you wish to have read by your peers and receive feedback.

*If you submit a CCV please ensure that it is in the correct format required for your scholarship, as the reviewer will not be giving feedback on format. Use the preview option  to generate a PDF version of your CCV.

We accept applications which will be submitted to any granting agency or scholarship. Therefore, there is no lower or upper limit to the size of the award. Please indicate the name of the award on the Scholarship Submission form.

You will be assigned two to three reviewers from our Internal Review Committee. Two will be at the PhD or PDF level and one will be at the master’s level*. When filling out your Scholarship Submission form please indicate your field of study. We will use this information to pair you with at least one reviewer who also works in your field and another who is external, as many granting agencies do not guarantee that reviewers will be from your field of study.

*Please note that although we will strive to meet the above pairings, it is subject to the availability of reviewers.

As a trainee who is submitting to the program:

  1. Be prepared to submit at least two weeks prior to the award deadline. Three to four weeks is preferred.
  2. Fill out the Scholarship Submission form and attach your Trainee Submission Agreement and materials. Wait up to 48 hours to be paired with two to three reviewers.
  3. Maintain an open line of communication with your reviewers. Wait one week to receive feedback on all materials submitted.
  4. Fill out the Feedback Survey*.

*Not mandatory, but greatly appreciated so that we may continue to improve the program.

As a reviewer:

  1. Fill out the Recruitment of Reviewers form.
  2. Read and sign the confidentiality agreement and attach it to the above form.
  3. Wait for a pairing. Note that these will occur on a rolling basis. When you receive a request, you have 24 hours to accept or decline the review. Please decline assignments only if you absolutely cannot do it. 
  4. Review and edit all submitted materials in one week and return them directly to the trainee. If there are special instructions from the applications that were included in the Scholarship Submission form, we will let you know and please take these into consideration when you review. 
  5. Fill out the Feedback Survey*.

*Not mandatory, but greatly appreciated so that we may continue to improve the program.

Thank you for using the program! Your responsibilities are as follows:

i) Start working on your application early. Send your request to the program as early as possible, but at least 2 weeks before the deadline. Submit your materials through the Scholarship Submission form.

ii) Maintain an open channel of communication with all your reviewers.

iii) Be open to receiving constructive feedback which is polite, well-intentioned and appropriate. It is up to you whether you address the comments or accept the changes, but please remember that they were provided to you with the goal of improving the application. 

iv) Although not mandatory, we would greatly appreciate you filling out our Feedback Survey.

In general, peer review processes are based on mutual collegial support and are unblinded. The practical reason is that in a small institution like ours it is hard to maintain anonymity in a peer review process, since we all generally know what other research groups/labs do. There is no need for anyone to hide their identity, since there is no ranking or judgement involved in providing and receiving feedback. In fact, in addition to help improving applications, a second goal of this program is to provide a means to practice giving and receiving feedback on scientific content and grantsmanship in a collegial way, the essence of internal peer review and team work. As we continue on as trainees in our academic career, we will experience many situations in which our work is being reviewed unblinded, or we are asked to provide feedback openly. For example, our papers, abstracts and grant applications are all reviewed by professionals who know our names, laboratories and credentials. 

After careful deliberation, we decided that this program should too be unblinded to help trainees prepare for these types of future reviews. Although your documents hopefully were already reviewed by your supervisor, you will find that  receiving outside critique is extremely useful. For many trainees, the scholarship that you are currently applying to may be the first time that you have ever received an external review of your work. Therefore, the Internal Peer Review Program is a perfect opportunity to take that step. Our program is trainee-run and we have implemented a variety of controls to try and ensure this unblinded process is beneficial, friendly and less intimidating. Most applicants find that participating in a peer review process help them improve their application and prevent mistakes in their final submission.

Remember that the purpose of this program is to help each other. Everyone who is reviewing for the program has signed a confidentiatlity agreement which acknowledges that all application materials are strictly confidential and that all feedback and communication between pairings will remain appropriate and good natured. 

Although the reviewers are usually blinded in the aforementioned processes, we determined that due to logistical constraints, as well as to fulfill our aim to form a collaborative program, it would be appropriate for the reviewers to be unblinded as well. 

If you have any concerns please fill out this Feedback Survey or reach out to us directly at srsa@smh.ca for more specific cases. 

Please contact us at srsa@smh.ca for any concerns regarding the pairing that was made. Your comments will be kept confidential and anonymous. Concerns include, but are not limited to:

i) Reviewer is more than 48 hours late in returning the submitted documents.*

ii) Reviewer has returned documents with inflammatory, inappropriate or otherwise offensive comments.

iii) Reviewer has not returned all documents submitted.

For general concerns, please give us your feedback through the Feedback Survey.

* Please note that if we don’t hear from you, we will assume that you received all materials on time.

We understand that pairings are being made on a rolling basis and that you may have a busy week planned when you receive one. To protect you, we have a 24 hour period after a pairing is made for you to accept or decline the pairing. You will not be penalized for declining a review. However, remember that trainees have a limited time to receive your feedback and incorporate it, so reassignments will further delay them. Therefore, please only decline a pairing if you absolutely cannot commit to the review. 

If you receive inflammatory or derogatory comments from a reviewee following the return of their material, please reach out to us at srsa@smh.ca.

We know that without context, sometimes reading criticism about your work can be difficult. It is important to remember that the Internal Review Committee is composed of your peers who are volunteering their time to review your scholarship application. These are people who want to see you succeed! A review should never be personal and always about the scholarship application. If you are unhappy with your review, try taking a 24 hour break from it before coming back. Please see below for some criteria that you can use to decide if your review has crossed the line of being good-natured. As always, please reach out to us at srsa@smh.ca if this is the case.

Constructive reviews consist of:

– Pointing out inaccuracies, mistakes or areas of improvement. All of these are brought to your attention with the goal of helping you correct these, brainstorm solutions and increase the chance of success.

– Keep in mind that constructive feedback is specific*. For example, instead of saying “this is bad”, a constructive review would say “This introduction does not provide enough background leading up to your rationale for the study. Try adding in more information about…”. The language in the example is actionable and instructive. 

*Remember that a bad review does not mean it is inflammatory. However, we do ask that you indicate this in the Feedback Survey so that we can improve our program accordingly.

Inflammatory reviews* consist of:

– Inappropriate language

– Derogatory comments towards the author, PI(s) or study participants

– Insults about the quality of the science, author or research field

*Remember that inflammatory reviews are rare.

Thank you for your interest! Becoming a part of the  Internal Review Committee is a fantastic opportunity to get grant reviewing experience which can be included on your CV.

Please fill out our Recruitment of Reviewers form. We are always looking for more reviewers and are accepting applications on a rolling basis! We are looking for master’s, PhD and PDF trainees.

In the later stages of a trainee’s career, reviewing grant proposals, abstracts and manuscripts becomes important as one becomes involved in project planning, preparing grant applications and taking on a more senior role in their institution. The experience gained from volunteering in the SRSA Internal Peer Review Program will help prepare you to read other students’ work critique scientific content and practice how to verify completeness and accuracy of submissions. In addition, reviewing other student’s scholarship proposals helps to improve your own skills in preparing applications, writing project plans, and becoming a better editor of your own work. You will also learn about different application requirements to widen your experience with different types of applications. The program will also equip you with valuable transferable skills. 

The program will benefit from your previous experience submitting applications to various granting agencies, and you will be able to provide support to your peers. The number of reviews done will also be taken into consideration for the RTC scholarship competition.

The reviewer position is on an “on call” basis. This means that you may receive a pairing at any point during the year as there are many deadlines for different scholarship applications. You will be given 24 hours to accept or decline the pairing. However, you may want to keep in mind that high volumes of reviews may be required during peak application times, like CGS-M (Fall), OGS (Spring) and the RTC Scholarship (Spring). 

Other responsibilities include:

i) Reviewing all submitted documents by providing basic grammatical editing, as well as an in-depth critique on the science (i.e. rationale and methodology). 

ii) Maintaining open communication with your paired trainee and ensuring that it, as well as your review, remains polite, appropriate and good-natured. Provide constructive feedback that is specific and instructive, to make it easy for the applicant to make corrections. 

iii) Return all submissions on time within one week of receiving them. There is a 48 hour grace period but this should be used only under exceptional circumstances. Remember that trainees need time to incorporate the feedback you have worked hard to give.

iv) Communicate with SRSA as soon as possible at srsa@smh.ca if you have any issues with an assigned pairing, including being unable to make a deadline.

v) Comply with the terms outlined in the confidentiality agreement that you signed at the start of the program.

 

We understand that pairings are assigned on a rolling basis and one may come at a time where you have competing deadlines. This is why we give you the opportunity to accept or decline the pairing within 24 hours of receiving it. The following steps will help you decide whether to accept or decline the pairing. Depending on the specific situation, you may choose to take any of the following steps, at your discretion:

i) If you are only going to be 24-48 hours past the deadline: email the trainee that you are paired with and communicate about whether this new deadline would be suitable. If not, please contact us at srsa@smh.ca and we will reassign the trainee. *Note: this option should be your first step instead of declining a pairing.

ii) If you will be more than 48 hours late: please contact us at srsa@smh.ca as soon as possible so that we can reassign the trainee. 

 

Absolutely! We hope to assist all trainees to achieve their professional goals by helping with scholarship applications and adding to volunteer and extracurricular activities within the institution. 

Thank you for thinking of us! This is the pilot year for our program and we would greatly appreciate any and all feedback about your experience submitting through or reviewing for our program. Please use the Feedback Survey.

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