Blog: Time to step into an evaluator’s shoes once again

Kone Foundation’s grant applications are evaluated by different research and art experts every year. What is the process for selecting peer evaluators, and what tips do evaluators give for applications? Kone Foundation’s grant coordinator Silja Pasila explains the progression of the autumn application round from the perspective of evaluation.

Which evaluator profile do I choose for my application? is one of the most asked questions at the Foundation’s grant receptions and application advice sessions. Evaluation is a very important consideration when preparing for the application process, and the choice of evaluation field can have a major impact on whether an application progresses to funding.

Choosing a field and preparing an application is easier when you consider the grant process from an evaluator’s perspective: what happens during the evaluation process, and what kind of an application would the evaluator like to read?

At Kone Foundation, the evaluation of grant applications is based on anonymous peer evaluation. This means that the application is evaluated by a research or art expert representing the field of evaluation chosen by the applicant. The evaluators are researchers, artists or other experts in their field – and they are of course familiar with the research and art sectors outside their own field as well.

As with grants awarded, the aim is to also take diversity into account in the selection of evaluators. The evaluators change every year, but they also represent a variety of geographic locations, genders, ages, and backgrounds. Recommendations from the evaluators of previous years and the networks of the foundation’s Board and experts are utilised in the selections. The evaluator selections are approved by the Board of Kone Foundation.

The expert evaluators are first contacted in the spring preceding the application process. This gives us time to familiarise the evaluators with their work. As the evaluation work takes a lot of time depending on the field (easily 80 hours for large fields), commitment to the work requires consideration. This year, perhaps as a result of the delays and rescheduling caused by the coronavirus, many evaluator candidates for the arts had to refuse the assignment due to a busy autumn. In research, too, hectic times caused many to put off the task to a later date.

A total of approximately 50 evaluators have been chosen for the autumn application round each year, 30 for research and 20 for the arts. Each evaluator has a set of applications. The number of applications per evaluator is between ca. 50 and 200. Evaluators are paid a fee for their evaluation.

Evaluators can start to evaluate applications in the online service for grants after the end of the application process. The work is done independently, and although evaluators may choose to chat anonymously with the evaluators of other fields marked in the application, they will still score their own set of applications alone. For this reason, the selection of the first evaluator profile for the application is the most important for the applicant. From the foundation’s perspective, the independent work of evaluators leads to supporting academically and artistically more interesting projects, as the only compromises that need to be made are inside the evaluator’s mind.

Once the evaluators have completed their evaluation work and formed a list of proposals for funding, they discuss them with a representative of the Foundation. The purpose of the meeting is to reflect on the evaluator’s views and to ensure that the applications are in line with the foundation’s focuses. Eventually, each reviewer’s lists are compiled and submitted to the foundation’s Board of Trustees, which then makes the funding decisions.


Evaluator tips for grant applications

At the end of the autumn application round, we ask for feedback and application-related comments from the experts who acted as peer evaluators. Each year, the comments highlight a few recurring issues that the evaluators would like applicants to pay particular attention to (in addition to the Foundation’s focuses and decision-making criteria). When finishing up your application, keep in mind that…

… evaluator profiles can be freely selected (excl. doctoral thesis applications), and there are no profile-specific quotas. In other words: you can choose environmental technology as your application’s evaluator profile, even if your field is performing arts. In this case, your application will be evaluated by an environmental technology expert from the perspective of environmental technology.

… you can only stand out from hundreds of applications by being yourself. It is a good idea to state in the application why you are applying for funding from Kone Foundation. However, it is worth noting that not all of the foundation’s focuses need to be present in a single application. So do not copy and paste, but write an application that sounds like you.

… the evaluator is an expert in their field, but may not be familiar with your work specifically. Be clear, avoid unnecessarily difficult language, and state explicitly what you are doing and why in your work or research plan.

… the application has been completed carefully. Have you applied for a sufficient number of years and enough funding in relation to the size of the project? Are all the attachments included? A well-thought-out and fully completed application indicates that the applicant will be able to carry out the project successfully.

… the first thing the evaluator reads on the application is the project summary. The summary is an opportunity to make a good first impression and attract the interest of the evaluator. If the project receives funding, the summary will also be published on the foundation’s website.

As a final tip for applicants, we at the foundation’s office encourage you to play it safe and avoid submitting your application at the last minute: it is of paramount importance for the funding decision that the application is submitted on time and can be included in the evaluation. Good luck with your application!



Silja Pasila

Kone Foundation’s grant coordinator.