Guest blog written by Jesper Johannesson, Economist for SmartSimple partner, DAMVAD.
The next grant cycle is always around the corner and the high volume of incoming grant applications will once again put the staff to the test. The increase in administrative burden will naturally increase the risk of a less thorough reviewing process, which inevitably will result in double funding and inconsistent decision-making over time. To help foundations avoid unnecessary stress and inefficient funding, SmartSimple has partnered up with Damvad Analytics and can now offer a solution through the SmartSimple platform. The solution is called Similarity Identification.
The idea behind Similarity Identification is to relieve research coordinators, reviewers, grantmakers and grant managers from the unnecessary manual parts of the grantmaking process and focus on what really matters – creating impact. The grantmaking process generally involves a fair share of manual work and finding the right application and comparing similar applications can in this process be very difficult and time-consuming. The manual work in finding and reading the same applications over and over again to decide on which is best suited for the grant is cumbersome and inefficient.
To grasp the massive amount of manual work involved in the reviewing process, we calculated how many years it would take to read all applications sent to a European foundation over a 2-year period. The European foundation received 1.346 applications from 991 unique applicants. Since you have to compare all applications to each other, it makes a total of 836.955 unique pairs. If all paper sheets were put next to each other, it would correspond to the distance between Nashville and Las Vegas. By using Similarity Identification, the infeasible task of reading and comparing all applications becomes feasible.
Similarity Identification is a text analysis-based machine learning solution available on the SmartSimple platform. Similarity Identification automatically identifies similarities between applications uploaded on SmartSimple – both exact word-by-word similarities and content similarities. The identification of word-by-word similarities works as a test for plagiarism. The more advanced content similarity function identifies similarities in the meaning of the content of the applications, even though expressed differently grammatically.
The Similarity Identification algorithm is fully integrated into the SmartSimple platform and runs smoothly in the background if activated. By activating and using Similarity Identification in your daily work, you will benefit in three key aspects:
Minimize wasted funds
Many foundations accidentally fund the same project twice. It can happen because of a lack of communication between different committees within the foundation, or simply because reviewers are flooded with work and accidentally pass through identical applications. Further, sometimes very similar projects are funded separately within a grant cycle because the reviewer or grant manager did not recognize the similarities between the projects by looking at them separately. Similarity Identification will automatically identify similar applications, which will enable the reviewer to strategically pair together applicants and thus minimize inefficient funding.
Cut down on administrative burden
Instead of wasting time on going through all applications to hopefully find the needle in the haystack, Similarity Identification will identify and display similar applications to the reviewer or grant manager and thus reduce the administrative burden. This will allow the reviewer to focus on the reviewing part of the job, rather than wasting time manually going through all applications.
Consistent decision-making over time
The Similarity Identification function can compare new applications to all historically uploaded applications. This enables you to identify similarities between new and old applications, which will make your evaluation and grant-making process more coherent and increase the external credibility of the decision-making process.
Furthermore, it will enable the funding organization to work strategically with similar applications to identify new trends or to cluster applications or projects. Through Similarity Identification, the funders can choose to ensure that recipients are informed about other similar projects or ask them to work together if relevant.
Damvad Analytics has worked closely with foundations for over ten years and provided data-driven solutions. The partnership between SmartSimple and Damvad Analytics enables all SmartSimple users to sign up for the Similarity Identification solution.