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I recently received an email, requesting me to review a grant proposal for DFG (German Research Foundation, https://www.dfg.de/en).

Though in other circumstances I might be happy to accept this, right now I am extremely busy applying to multiple positions and finishing papers under tight deadlines (I am a postdoc). I am also a bit surprised that they considered me to do the review, since I would've thought only people with permanent positions would do this kind of thing. So at this moment, I must approach this in a selfish manner and ask whether acting as a reviewer could bring any benefits for me.

I have a few questions:

  1. Is this something I could mention in my CV? Would it be useful?
  2. How much time would it take for me to finish the review? Unfortunately it seems that I cannot access much details about the proposal without accepting to review it. Therefore I am asking for estimates, perhaps from someone else that might have done this before.
  3. Would it be beneficial for me, in terms of experience? I anticipate to eventually find a position and having to apply to grants such as these myself.

Thanks.

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    What type of proposal is it? They have very different lengths. "Sachbeihilfe" (standard individual grant) is ~20 pages, an application for a "Sonderforschungsbereich" is typically >200 pages long and includes an on-site review. Proposals are pretty much always as long as they can be, so knowing the type gives rise to a good estimation on the effort. Reviewers "just" need a PhD, so a postdoc can be reviewer.
    – DCTLib
    Feb 16 at 14:37
  • @DCTLib I don't know. I only saw the summary, which is a few paragraphs. I have written to ask how long is the full grant proposal.
    – a06e
    Feb 16 at 17:14
  • Funny. I just had a look at a DFG grand review invitation I once got, and it also didn't mention this. It did mention a "GZ" in the title of the e-mail, however. If it is of the form "<Initials of the PI>/<Number>-<One Digit>", then it is most likely a "Sachbeihilfe". They can have 17 pages for actual scientific content in 11point font size, plus 8 pages of information about ethics and formal stuff. The 8 pages should be quick to read, the 17 pages tend to be a bit dense, but good proposals are still easy to read. Hope it helps with point 2.
    – DCTLib
    Feb 16 at 19:35
  • Let's assume it's a "Sachbeihilfe". I presume I'll have to write a report. So just to have a qualitative idea of the amount of work I'd have to do, what's the expected amount of pages I should write , more or less?
    – a06e
    Feb 16 at 22:41
  • @DCTLib please see my previous comment (I forgot to tag you)
    – a06e
    Feb 17 at 13:02

2 Answers 2

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If you don't accept it, there is really nothing to put on your CV. Only if you complete a review is it an "accomplishment".

Reviewing grants is beneficial in two ways. It is a service and will be recognized as such when you list it, and it gives you access to research and other ideas earlier than you would otherwise be able to get it.

How long it takes is difficult to say, and I have little advice on that. It depends on field and on the grant proposal itself as well as on how detailed the agency needs you to be in review. You can ask them about the latter. You might also be able to see the proposal before making a decision, though that won't always be possible.

If you decline, tell them that you are interested in general, but are too committed to other things at the moment to help them.

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    Regarding your second paragraph: It can perhaps be added that having seen a grant proposal and having thought about what you liked and didn't like about it helps with writing your first own grant proposal.
    – DCTLib
    Feb 16 at 19:39
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    @DCTLib Yes, that's something I'd value.
    – a06e
    Feb 16 at 22:41
  • Seems like a good answer, but I'm not sure the first point ("could I put it in my CV?" if the review is carried out) is addressed yet. Any thoughts? Feb 18 at 17:52
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As a postdoc you need to learn how to write grants. One of the best ways to do this is to read other grant applications. In particular being involved in the reviewing process can teach you about the unstated aspects of how particular grants work. I would definitely recommend taking every opportunity you can in your early career to be involved in grant review in order to improve your own grant writing and understand the grant application process.

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