Many people are unaware that it is easy and encouraged to write an external independent evaluator into an SBIR proposal. An evaluator is a great tool to help complete the reports associated with SBIR projects. While evaluation is not a mandatory component of SBIR projects, most SBIR awards come with mandatory regulations for project reporting. It is considered an allowable expense to hire an evaluator to complete reporting requirements. Potential awardees are welcome to write this fee into SBIR grant proposals.
Why an Evaluator?
The evaluator will be responsible for reporting, project meetings, and data collection. Depending on the individual SBIR requirements, the evaluator is usually written in as a consultant or advisor. Many federal grants allow a certain percentage of the overall budget for this fee or provide a cap to how much can be spent on evaluation services. Given that reports are often mandated, it is very important to have a protocol in place for how the report is going to be addressed and how and when to complete it.
Perhaps the most beneficial part of writing an external independent evaluator into a proposal is that it alleviates some of the workloads from the Principal Investigator. The rigors of programming are often such that it is hard to simply keep up with project tasks let alone collect and analyze data on a monthly basis and use it to build content for the final report. Outsourcing this task to the evaluator means key personnel can stay focused on programming. The evaluator will collect data and attend monthly project meetings to discuss project outcomes and offer feedback on program success. If all this can be done at no out-of-pocket-cost it is certainly worth considering.
When an evaluator is written into a proposal, Principal Investigators can ensure they have adequate reports and supporting documents. This helps lend credibility to their project. These reports can be useful to show to potential new funders, board members, and colleagues. The more supporting research and the more detailed the reports are, the more credible the support of the hypothesis will be perceived to be.
You should always read the full funding announcement to see what the budget is for an evaluator. Determine if there are any caps on the allowable amount from the report. And determine what type of reporting will be required. Writing an evaluator into an SBIR proposal can save project personnel time and money.