NORDP 2019 Conference Notes: Building the RD Professional’s Toolbox and Skills for Developing Project Evaluation Plans for Grant Proposals

Slides: Building the RD Professional’s Toolbox and Skills for Developing Project Evaluation Plans for Grant Proposals

Presenters:

  • Katie Allen, Kansas State University, Office of Educational Innovation and Evaluation
  • Morgan Wills, Kansas State University, Office of Educational Innovation and Evaluation
  • Makenzie Ruder, Kansas State University, Office of Educational Innovation and Evaluation

Thanks to our session scribe, Paige Belisle, Harvard University!

This highly engaging NORDP session presented by Kansas State University’s Office of Educational Innovation and Evaluation team offered attendees tools and resources for considering grant proposal evaluation plans. The session explored terms and ideas common to evaluation plans and provided guidance for Research Development professionals who are new to this aspect of proposal development. Defining evaluation as determining the value or worth of a project, the presenters suggested that evaluation can also be described as a means to document the success of a particular program.

The presenters explained that first, you will need to determine criteria indicators for making your assessment. Many funding agencies will have a list of required documents and specific instructions for what is required within the evaluation plan. An internal evaluation will require the research team to evaluate their own work, while an external evaluation will be conducted by someone independent from the project. Essentially, an evaluation asks whether a project’s overall purpose is being met, given the requirements of the program solicitation. For example: do the PIs need to produce publications, or gather and report on a specific form of data? Have they met these goals successfully?

As a Research Development professional, there are many ways that you can help the PI prepare their evaluation plan. You can help a PI identify the supplemental documents that they will need to gather to be compliant with the solicitation. The RFP language used to describe similar types of evaluation plan components can vary from sponsor to sponsor, as will the agency’s specific guidance for things to include within those components. This sponsor-specific language and terminology will be important to ensuring the proposal’s competitiveness. PIs may need assistance in considering what to budget for their project’s evaluation. The presenters advised that an external evaluation budget should be roughly 10% of the total proposed budget for the project. In the budget justification, you might suggest that the PI specify why the evaluation will cost what they are proposing. For example, will the external evaluator need to travel to the PI’s lab to assess the project? You can also provide assistance by reviewing the proposal’s project communication plan and timeline.

What did you hear at this presentation that surprised you?

Because I do not personally assist faculty with budget preparation, I was interested to learn that an external evaluation budget is often roughly 10% of the total proposal budget.

What resources did you discover at this presentation? 

The presenters put together a comprehensive list of links and additional resources on the topic of evaluation, which can be found here: http://bit.ly/OEIE_NORDP

What was the most interesting question asked by an audience member, and what was the presenter(s)’ response?

One audience member asked how to approach the topic of developing an evaluation plan with a faculty member who may be apprehensive about the process of an external evaluation. The presenters explained that one way to frame evaluation is to think of evaluators as “critical friends” who can help bring a project to the next level. The presenters explained that, in their own experience, when a PI works with an evaluator once, they begin to appreciate the process and benefits of evaluation.