Reviewers' Comments


When you read the critiques of your application, be sure to listen to the reviewers. They are telling you how to improve your application.

It is always possible to improve an application. Even the best applications can receive unfundable scores or be unscored because of an unforeseeable interpretation of a sentence. Simply respond to the reviewers’ comments in such instances.

Keep in mind that at least two of the three reviewers of your application are probably not true experts in the field of your application. Instead they are generalists in that field. You have to strike the right balance between technical writing and generalist writing in order to avoid loosing your reviewers.

Usually, if you respond well to reviewers’ comments, your score will improve, but not always. This occurs for two reasons. First, you may have a different set of reviewers who pick up on different aspects of the application. Secondly, many reviewers do not address all of the major weaknesses in an application. They only address enough to justify the low score. Therefore, when you rewrite your application, be sure to correct or improve all areas and not just the ones that the reviewers comment on.

That being said, I find that it is very difficult for many applicants to get the key messages that the reviewers are giving them. If a reviewer says that your team needs strengthening in a specific area, then find the best person in that area that you can. Do not defend the qualities of the team member. Instead find a new or additional team member. Do not find a new team member who is just adequate, however. Find someone who is excellent in that area. This shows not only that you have responded seriously to the reviewer, it also shows that you can attract top notch people.

Likewise, if a reviewer suggests that your significance is low because the market for your product is small, document that size of the market. You may feel that you already documented the size of the market, but the reviewer is telling you that you have not done so! Basically, this does not mean the reviewer did not read your application, it more likely means that the reviewer does not believe your market projections. Therefore you need to find more convincing evidence the next time around. Listen to this feedback. Address this type of weakness by including better evidence or get better letters of commitment in order to demonstrate your market size.

This same line of reasoning applies to many areas of the application. Next time, instead of assuming that the reviewer did not read the application closely, assume that the reviewer did not believe what you said. When you rewrite the application, keep this in mind to address what is probably the real issue. Therefore do not simply repeat what you said in the previous application or put it in bold. Instead find better support for the statements and restate the assertions in a different manner.

For more specific and additional information on this topic, click on this link: High Level SBIR/STTR Grant Writing Techniques.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me or go to

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