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How to write a useful review

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Individual proposal reviews are provided, anonymously and unedited, to PIs. Thoughtful assessments can help PIs write stronger proposals in future. The quality of the reviews is also one of the aspects of the FT program that will be used in evaluating the pilot. Below, we provide some guidelines to assist reviewers in writing useful comments (based partly on advice from the Spitzer Science Center to their assessors).


Basic guidelines


  1. Be specific. If there are particular things in the proposal that you know could be improved, then please provide specifics. This can be particularly helpful for proposals from post-docs and graduate students who may not yet have as much experience writing proposals as their more senior colleagues.
  2. Avoid simply summarizing the proposal. A concise overview is fine, but it should not constitute the entire set of comments.
  3. Be brief. There's no need to think of things to say if there really is not anything wrong with the proposal.
  4. Be accurate. If you aren't sure about something then don't write it down (or, at least, raise it as a question rather than a fact).
  5. Do not use slang or jargon. A poorly defined sample is just that, not a ‘grab bag’.
  6. Do not pose unanswerable questions. Proposers don’t want to read, ‘What were they thinking? How will they get the answer?’ Instead say that you thought the path to the science was unclear or describe what specifically was missing.
  7. Be courteous and professional. It's not appropriate to be insulting or incredulous even if you think a proposal could be greatly improved.


Example comments

These comments, mostly taken from the first round of FT proposal reviews, demonstrate the type of comments that can be useful to PIs.


  • This proposal explains well how the data will be used to study the accretion rate evolution.
  • More details on confronting data with explosion models would be helpful in explaining how these observations would uncover the underlying physics.
  • The scientific goal is clearly presented. However, this assumes all the unexpected features in [the target] are universal among all Type Ia SNe, which does not seem to be strongly supported by evidence.
  • The experimental design is well justified, aiming to both capture important features and to probe their evolution between the three requested epochs.
  • Although a lot of information about the dust, the SFR etc. could be extracted, the link to the scientific goal of understanding the physics of the evolution of the Hubble sequence is not clearly established.
  • The outstanding questions they will answer are clearly outlined, the target selection is well justified and the team has the expertise to reduce and analyse the data promptly.
  • The authors clearly justify the need to get H alpha maps for their candidates. They explain clearly why the small scale star formation is an interesting question and how they will derive the extinction values.
  • The authors do not explain in detail in which way having broad band filter images helps constrain the theoretical models
  • The science case is interesting, but the proposal lacks a clear outline of what questions will be answered. For example, what new information will we learn from observing a third source? Will this allow us to decisively identify the nature of [this kind of object]?
  • The proposal lists examples of several lines that may or may not be present in the spectrum, with no clear [diagnostic] that will unambiguously classify this source.
  • The authors do not explain why their target is the 2nd best target out of ~70 known ULSs
  • The method that will be used to separate the two scenarios is well described, and the description of the experimental design seems suitable to apply this method.
  • The assumptions on the Ly-a luminosity are too optimistic. The assumed value is among the highest values to date.
  • However, given the expected low flux in the lines and continuum, the proposal relies on the contribution from the hidden AGN suggested by the strong MIPS 24micron detection. This could be risky as hidden AGNs are difficult to detect, especially since extinction may be quite high [in] post-starburst galaxies.
  • It is unclear to me why the team had settled on targets with low impact parameters as a pilot study, if the case at large impact parameters could test predictions from simulations.
  • The proposal appears to ignore the extensive literature on that already addresses some of the proposed science goals. Complementary data for the proposed observations seem rather limited.