Mel Cossette is principal investigator for the National Resource Center for Materials Technology Education at Edmonds Community College. MatEdU’s mission is to advance materials technology education nationally.
Q: What advice would you give to a PI in their first reporting period?
A: First, check the Reporting section of Research.gov to confirm the annual report due date. Sometimes a first time PI refers to their award date or start date, but it’s actually the due date listed on this website that is critical. Second, connect with your evaluator and inform him or her of the report due date. This helps with the planning and writing processes and assists with identifying information to be shared early on in the process. This does not mean things cannot change, but it is essential that the evaluator and PI communicate.
Q: How do you use your evaluation results in your annual report to NSF?
A: Typically, we create a rough draft of the annual report, from our perspective, which we share with our evaluator. The evaluator reviews and provides feedback. In the meantime, we continue building our report, paying attention to the different categories within the report, such as accomplishments, significant activities, products developed, etc. During this time, our evaluator develops a draft report that is shared with us. Although the reports have a different focus and are written using different formats, we compare content from the two reports. That helps us to be succinct with the data and information the reports are requiring. We find that this collaborative process helps to keep our team focused on the task at hand.
Q: What are some things that make an evaluation report useful (from a PI’s perspective)?
A: Because the information is coming from a semi-external perspective, we get the chance to compare the evaluation report on our activities, successes, areas that may need review, etc., to our activity timeline. This helps to limit scope creep. The recommendations from our evaluator also enabled us to identify a potential gap in our activities that needs to be addressed. PIs are usually completely focused on their projects and annual reports, so having an external evaluator point out successes, gaps, inconsistencies and data points reinforces progress and project direction.