URF Reviewer Guidelines

Thank you for volunteering to serve on the University Research Foundation (URF) review panel. To both the new and returning members, your time and effort is sincerely appreciated.

You can read the applicants’ grant guidelines as well as their FAQ.

Evaluation Criteria:

Reviewers should evaluate the proposals as rigorously as they would if reviewing for an external sponsor.

The University Research Foundation is a campus program dedicated to fulfilling the mission of the Penn Compact. The Penn Compact motivates community members to innovate, be radically inclusive, and positively impact their local, national, and global communities.

Your score for this application should be based upon significance, Investigator(s), Innovation, Approach, and Environment.

Other Evaluation criteria:

  • Scholarly merit, creativity, impact, and innovation
  • Investigator’s career trajectory
  • Feasibility
  • Significance of the research
  • Prospects for future extramural funding
  • Matching support from other sources
  • Career development at early stages of career
  • Advancement of school or institutional objectives, such as interdisciplinary research
  • Overall impact to investigator’s research program
  • Undergraduate participation

RODG: A major consideration for the Opportunity Development Grants will be alignment with the specific goals of the grant program [refer to RODG and RODG2 Guidelines]


Scoring is a scale of 1-9.

URF Scoring



Do not include funding recommendation. Please only summarize the proposal and critique it.

We would appreciate any constructive feedback for the applicants in the event that they would like to submit the proposals to external sponsors for further consideration. In addition, feedback would be helpful to applicants whose proposals are unfunded and would like to resubmit to the next URF cycle.


Reviewer Eligibility:

Reviewers with a conflict of interest on a specific grant must identify themselves and abstain from completing an individual review and participating in the panelist discussion.

Applicants for the current cycle may not serve on the review panel.  Previous applicants and awardees are still eligible to serve on the review panel.

Online Review System:

Please use our online system (SurveyMonkey) to review the proposals.  You can read the proposals online or download them first.

There is an option to save your drafted critique as you work on them within the system.  Mark it as “complete” when you are done.

You can download a 2-page “How-To Quick Guide” here. It explains how to login (with Pennkey), see which grants to evaluate, review and score an application, add download the proposals.

Additional Biomed Processes:

  • The scores will be spread over the entire voting range of the review panel.
  • Only those proposals above a predetermined threshold will be discussed at the meeting.
  • Proposals that rank below the threshold will not be discussed at the meeting. In advance of the scheduled meetings, the URF administrative staff, in consultation with the committee chairs, will notify the committee members of the list of proposals that will be discussed at the meeting. A list of proposals that are below the threshold (being triaged) will also be provided to the committee. Unless an individual reviewer has a valid and convincing reason to elevate a case that does not meet the threshold, only proposals above the threshold will be brought to discussion and ranked by the entire panel.
  • During the discussion the primary reviewer will provide a very brief summary of the proposal. The critiques should be an evaluation of the proposal using the evaluation criteria: Scholarly merit, creativity, impact, and innovation, prospects for future external funding, career development for early stage investigators. A sample critique can be found  here.
  • The secondary reviewer (and any others who wish to) will add any new thoughts to the summary and provide his/her critique.
  • Your critique is only for the purposes of the committee and the discussion. It will not be viewed by the applicant. We will summarize the comments and enter feedback into the system for the applicants. It is crucial, therefore, that you include points that will improve the research and/or a submission on the topic to grant agencies. The goal is to aid our faculty to be ever more competitive and successful. Thus, we ask that your critiques be helpful.
  • Discussion (brief) ensues.
  • Budget recommendations made.
  • Brief discussion of Sponsored Support may be included.
  • Regulatory considerations will be raised, if any.
  • Final score will be polled (ALL members of the panel will score the grant in the online URF system).
  • NOTE: ALL PRESENT AT THE DISCUSSION WILL VOTE SO THAT THE TWO REVIEWERS (PRIMARY AND SECONDARY) WILL NOT BE THE SOLE DECIDERS OF THE DISPOSITION OF THE GRANT. Among other things, this will likely spread the scores a bit more so that there will be less frequent instances of grants having the identical score, which has created problems in drawing the funding line in the past.