Application Review Process & Criteria

Every application undergoes a rigorous review process to ensure we fund bold science addressing big challenges.
Every application undergoes a rigorous review process to ensure we fund bold science addressing big challenges.

Our Application Review Process

Our review process includes evaluations by Peer Reviewers and our Advisory Councils.

External Peer Review

Independent Peer Reviewers, scientific experts in their fields, assess applications using select criteria that may include:

  • Scientific or technical merit
  • Potential impact and relevance
  • Project strategy and feasibility
  • Innovation

Advisory Council Review

Advisory Councils are comprised of individuals with significant industry or scientific expertise in each of our Challenge Areas. Advisory Councils consider applications based on criteria that may include:

  • Alignment with FFAR’s priorities
  • Portfolio balance
  • Potential impact and relevance
  • Merit across topic area

Executive Director Review & Approval

Our scientific program directors compile results from both the External Peer Reviews and Advisory Council Reviews and present recommendations to the executive director. The executive director reviews the recommendations and determines final project approval.

FFAR Online Review Portal Instructions


Request for Application Review Process

Some funding opportunities require a pre-proposal or other high-level outline of a proposed project before applicants are invited to submit full proposals.

Pre-Proposal Review Process

Pre-proposal applications undergo an internal review process to ensure the proposed project is relevant to the RFA and advances our mission.

We then invite applications recommended by the internal review process to submit a full proposal application.

We generally notify applicants if they are invited to submit a full proposal within approximately three weeks of the pre-proposal submission deadline. Only applicants who submitted a pre-proposal and are invited to submit a full proposal application will advance in the application process.

Full-Proposal Review Process

Peer Reviewers, the relevant Advisory Council and the executive director evaluate full proposals.


Sample Evaluation Criteria

We typically evaluate project proposals based on several categories of weighted criteria. Below is a list of sample review criteria.

1. Impact & Relevance

  • Is the proposal relevant to the RFA?
  • Does the proposal summarize how the research addresses the challenge outlined in the RFA?
  • Will the proposed outcomes generate actionable results and benefits to the food and agriculture systems?
  • How important are the potential impact for the environment, health, economics, animal welfare, society, science, etc.?
  • If the project fails, or does not yield expected outcomes, what are the potential benefits or lessons learned?

2. Scientific or Technical Merit

  • Is the proposed project conceptually sound?
  • Does the proposal’s implementation strategy demonstrate project feasibility?
  • Does the proposal include a data management plan that is appropriate for the scope of work?

3. Project Strategy & Feasibility

  • Is the proposal logically feasible?
  • Is the proposed approach, strategy and design clearly described and supported by established theory and practice? Are the base of evidence and any necessary adaptations clearly defined and referenced?
  • Are the proposed objectives and activities feasible within the duration of the award?
  • Are possible barriers addressed and approaches for overcoming them proposed?
  • Are the target population and culturally appropriate methods to reach the target population clearly described?
  • Is the budget commensurate with the proposed work?

4. Pioneering Innovation

  • Is the project innovative?
  • Does the proposed project to break new ground to address new or existing problem?
  • Does the proposal suggest and explore creative, original or pioneering concepts, approaches or methodologies?
  • Does the proposal clearly define the novel insights to be gained or outcomes that increase the generality and applicability of research?
  • From your perspective, what are the novel insights to be gained or outcomes that address the challenge in the RFA?
  • What is the likelihood that the proposed project would lead to novel insights or outcomes mentioned in this section?

5. Outcomes Evaluation

  • Are specific goals and measurable objectives for each year of the project listed for both the initial project and the proposed continuation project? Does the applicant provide the baseline and results or method(s) of measurement?
  • Are the proposed outcome measures appropriate for the activities proposed and are the expected outcome significant? Does the application provide a clear and appropriate plan for data collection and management, statistical analyses and interpretation of results to follow, measure and report on the project’s outcomes?

6. Organizational Capacity / Research Environment

  • If a research education component is included in the proposal, will the scientific and educational environment of the proposed research education program contribute to its intended goals?
  • Does the described role of each collaborating organization make it clear that each organization adds value to the project and is committed to working together to implement the project?
  • Where appropriate, is there evidence of collaboration and buy-in among participating programs, third-party organizations and industry groups?
  • Is the appropriate infrastructure already in place?
  • Does the applicant provide evidence of compelling project progress of the already-funded project? If not, has the applicant addressed obstacles and strategies to overcome those obstacles?
  • Is the organization structurally and financially stable and viable?
  • Are there feasible plans to integrate the project into existing and sustainable systems?
  • Is there evidence that the faculty have sufficient institutional support to create a sound educational environment for the participants?
  • Does the proposal demonstrate that the project personnel have adequate resources (for example, institutional support, equipment and/or other physical resources) to conduct the proposed research or associated activities?

7. Qualifications of Project Director and Key Personnel if applicable

  • Is the principal investigator qualified to conduct the proposed activities?
  • If data access is necessary to accomplish the proposed project, does the proposal demonstrate the project personnel’s knowledge of how to get access to the data?
  • Have the appropriate personnel been recruited to implement, evaluate and complete the project?


Secondary Evaluation Criteria

We may also weigh applications against secondary criteria, including the following:

1. Budget

  • Is the budget appropriate and reasonable for the scope of the proposed work?

2. Dissemination and Scalability /Expansion

  • Does the proposal describe how the project can be disseminated, adapted or expanded to other communities, states and/or organizations?
  • Do the dissemination plans project’s results and outcomes include barriers encountered and successes achieved?

3. Protection for Human and Animal Subjects

  • Does the proposal articulate potential risks as well adequate protections to address these risks?
  • How important is the knowledge to be gained from the experiment?

4. Previous Project Performance – only for projects building on existing research

  • Does the proposal clearly articulate why additional research is needed?
  • Does the proposed continuation project demonstrate a high likelihood of success based on the initial project’s results and outcomes?
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