Patients on Grant Proposal/Peer Review Teams - Training Initiative

So you're interested in participating in a grant review process as a patient reviewer, or on a grant writing team, but you're not sure what to expect?

A team of patient partners, staff, and researchers have collaborated to create these resources to help patients and research teams better understand patient engagement in grants and their review.

Webinar recordings:


  • Kent Cadogan-Loftsgard, Patient Partner, BC SUPPORT Unit Provincial Patient Council (Vancouver)
  • Ruth Lavergne, Assistant Professor, Health Sciences, Simon Fraser University (Burnaby)
  • Marilyn Parker, Patient Partner, BC SUPPORT Unit Interior Centre (Kelowna)
  • Anni Rychtera, Patient Partner, BC SUPPORT Unit Provincial Patient Council (Vernon)

Moderated by Lisa Ridgway, Patient Partner, BC SUPPORT Unit Provincial Patient Council (Victoria)

Patient partners as peer reviewers: Getting started | held May 26, 2020
Are you a patient partner curious about learning how to participate as a peer reviewer for funding agencies’ grant programs? Then this webinar is for you! For more information, review the Frequently Asked Questions link at the bottom of this page.
Recording link:

Research teams with patient partners: Collaborating on grant writing | held June 17, 2020
Are you a patient partner or a research team curious about what patient partners can contribute to writing a grant proposal? Then this webinar is for you!
Recording link:

Fundamental criteria: As a patient, what do I need to participate?

To start, ask yourself the following two questions:

  1. Do I have experience as a patient or caregiver in the health care system?
  2. Am I interested in using my experience to help granting agencies decide how to fund health research?

If you answered yes to these, then you meet the basic and fundamental criteria for patient peer grant review.

What will I be asked to review?

Each funder (see section below) will have its own criteria for reviewing grants.

  • You will likely be asked to review grant proposals for the quality and robustness of patient engagement.
  • You may be asked to judge quality or interpret grant applications.

Resources are available to help you learn more about these ways of evaluating research grant proposals. 

Who are the BC health research funding agencies (funders)?

The following funders may have patient reviewer roles - check with them directly to see if they do and what their process is for putting your name forward as a peer reviewer.

  • Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research
  • Vancouver Coastal Health Research Institute
  • Providence Health Care
  • Vancouver Foundation
  • Canadian Institutes of Health Research
  • Island Health Authority
  • Granting agencies that fund research on specific diseases or conditions, such as the MS Society, Alzheimer Society, Heart & Stroke Foundation etc.

Who should I talk to if I want more information?

Check with your local regional centre to see what opportunities they're aware of and sign up for our newsletter.

Selected Resources for Patient Peer Review of Grant Proposals

NameFromResource TypeLink
Learning for participants in peer reviewCanadian Institutes of Health ResearchOnline Training Module
Go to resource
Public Co-Applicants in Research – guidance on roles and responsibilitiesINVOLVE, National Institutes of Health Research, UK


Go to resource 
Engaging Patients and Stakeholders in Research Proposal Review 

The Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI), USA

Academic journal articleGo to resource 
Patient / Caregiver Peer Review Questions 

The Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI), USA

Criteria for consideration when doing reviewsGo to resource 
Peer reviewing research proposals: Guidelines for members of the public 

INVOLVE, National Institutes of Health Research, UK

An online resource of guidelines for patient peer reviewersGo to resource 
Patient-Oriented Research Level of Engagement ToolSaskatchewan Centre for Patient-Oriented Research (SCPOR)A tool to evaluate the level of patient engagement in a proposal

Go to resource 

How to read and understand a scientific paper: a guide for non-scientists (UK)

LSE Impact

a helpful guide for non-scientists on how to read a scientific paper. These steps and tips will be useful to anyone interested in the presentation of scientific findings and raise important points for scientists to consider with their own writing practice.

Go to resource 

Understanding health research: a tool for making sense of health studies (UK)

MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit

Trying to make sense of health research? This tool will guide you through a series of questions to help you to review and interpret a published health research paper.

Go to resource

Webinar: Patient partners as peer reviewers: Getting started - Frequently Asked Questions

Q: I'm a research funder and interested in adding patient partners to our review panel. Is it preferable to recruit patients as individual reviewers with equivalent responsibilities to academic reviewers or set up a separate patient review panel that delivers their feedback to the academic panel collectively?

  • I think you can do it either way. Whatever patient partners you might reach out to will certainly be capable of telling you what they're comfortable with in terms of the level of involvement or experience. Often what happens in this process is that you might have thought that you were going into a process, whether it's a research process or a peer review process, a certain way at the beginning and then it evolved over the course of coming to the end of that exercise.
  • I can imagine it working either way, and that in our own work with the BC primary health care and patient advisory it's often a real strength to have people with diverse perspectives for healthcare and so I think a panel that could include multiple patient perspectives could be a real strength and that it might practically speaking make sense to set that up is separate. But I can see either approach working.

Q: How many grants are appropriate to ask patient reviewers to review? 

  • I've done a whole bunch of myself, my dining room table has been pretty messy, but usually about eight for me.
  • I have done, maybe as many as 15 in a given competition. It just depends on how many grants there are to review versus how many reviewers do we have to evaluate them. However, when it comes to the patient engagement compensation aspect of this kind of work like Andy was talking about earlier. I do think that there is a lot of value and a lot of ethical consideration into making sure that you do a budget appropriately for the time of the or the time of the reviewers relative to the number of projects that they're going to be reviewing
  • Between eight and 12 projects.
  • 12, that's probably as a patient my threshold. I think what we need to keep focused as many of these reviewers work full time jobs as well. And if so, it can be quite a daunting task, but I think organization is your friend. And that's really the lead on the project to give you the tools and you can budget your time accordingly.
  • In one series of reviews that I've been doing, a template is provided to so that the questions are asked for you. In that funding opportunity and all you have to do is fill in very analytical answers, but a template is provided so that you can move smoothly through the review process.

Q: is it appropriate to ask patient reviewers to review the whole grant or should there be specific sections just for them?

  • I think that you need to have the end to end process. When you start to segment or silo pieces of an application you're really not getting the full concept in the full understanding and so even though it may be a large scope of a project, it's still important to see that.
  • Anytime that anyone is asking me to only look at part of a picture, my first thought is, what am I not seeing and what are you trying to hide from me so I think that full and honest disclosure is an absolutely vital part of an effective peer review process.

Q: Can you provide some clarification around “Indigenous bias”?

  • This is awkward shorthand and I think this could take a couple of forms and this could be racism directed at members of a team and stereotyped views about people involved in research submission. This could also take the form of undervaluing Indigenous methodologies for research. I think it's important to be conscious of both those forms.

Q: Can patient reviewers be asked to review grants that are not specifically patient oriented research focused? 

  • I think a case can be made that all research should eventually aspire to be patient oriented research, but maybe what this question or means is can patients be involved in research that is more basic maybe what we call bench science. And I would say yes, absolutely. And not just because I am someone who is interested in all aspects of that sort of thing. But I think that even if you are at a type or a stage of research that only inform us for now the next stage of research, patient benefit should always be the eventual goal.
  • If I were asked to review something that was non-patient oriented I likely would decline because I would rather personally spend my time on patient oriented work that is going to benefit my health care system.

Q: Should patient reviewers be paid?

  • Reviewers coming from other stakeholder groups are also not paid. Personally, I think there's a case to be made for the professional time of all reviewers to be compensated where especially there are review panel members that are not already compensated to be there by other sources.
  • Compensation is always nice as a patient partner. I think that that's first and foremost. The BC SUPPORT Unit looked at that quite closely in the last couple of years.
  • It is really important that the resources are in place so that diverse voices can be heard as part of the review process and that the supports that might be needed to make sure that that forum is accessible and everyone who can contribute would be really important and strengthen the research we all do.

Q: As a patient, I sometimes have trouble completing webforms. Is there another way to get involved?

  • We can suggest that funding agencies make email available as an option for expressing interest to get involved. F
  • You can visit the BC SUPPORT Unit’s webpage For Patients and see other ways to get involved: