How Grand Challenges Explorations Grants Are Selected
An initial screening removes proposals that have not addressed the requirements specified in the call for proposals, either by lacking a required element or by focusing on an area outside of the specified challenge. Responsive applications then undergo a blinded, champion-based review by the Innovation Panel, and in parallel, they are reviewed by a set of challenge-specific experts.
To increase the chances of funding transformational ideas, the application review process incorporates an “Innovation Panel” composed of proven innovators. We empower panel members to champion—to single-handedly mark—individual proposals for funding (“Gold Awards”), thereby avoiding the risk averse tendency of conventional consensus-based peer review. They also identify several second choices (“Silver Awards”). The name and affiliation of the applicant is omitted during the review process to maximize the chance that proposals will be selected based on their key idea, rather than on the stature of the applicant or research organization.
In addition to the Innovation Panel review, applications are commonly reviewed by a separate panel with expertise specific to the challenges. Using guidance from both review panels, foundation staff assemble a portfolio of complementary projects that address the challenge outlined in the challenge statement. Throughout the review process, experts from across the foundation ensure that strategic priorities are being addressed.
The final step in the review is a rapid due diligence evaluation to ensure that the investigator and institution have the basic institutional capacity to receive the grant and perform the work described.