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NEC Spotlight April 12th, 2024
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Five Practical Tips for Reporting Season

Posted by on February 28th, 2024 Posted in: Blog, Newsletter, Thought Leadership

For many of us, it’s reporting season: a time to reflect on the work accomplished, the pending deliverables, the challenges faced, and the solutions we have identified on our paths to reaching our goals and fulfilling our mission. NEC would like to offer some practical advice to help you make the most of your future progress reports.

1. It’s all about that … plan

There is no better time to start on your reporting workflows than at the time you are planning to request funding. Reporting is an integral, and most often mandatory, component of receiving an award, so start right away — as early as possible. This early planning process allows you to see the immediate, the midterm, and the longer-range effect of each action or activity you engage in and how every part of your workplan relates to each other and aligns back to your mission and your project goals. It is all interconnected, and the separate components can work in harmony if you set things up from the beginning. 

2. Stick to your reporting requirements

Not all reporting is made equal. There are differences in types (e.g., progress or performance vs. financial), requests (e.g., accomplishments vs. performance metrics), frequency (annual vs. final, etc.). Make sure you thoroughly read and understand the instructions, requirements, deadlines, and submission processes of your reporting process. Most often, there will be word or character limits — abide by them!

3. Tell YOUR story

High quality reports are all about balancing somewhat disparate considerations: provide complete information to fully meet the requirements and do so within a constrained space. Keep repetition to a minimum. Use your allotted space strategically and to your advantage. Make sure to have a unifying thread or connecting theme. Back up your arguments with specific data and provide the context to render those numbers meaningful (e.g., X attendees that attended Y trainings stated a 95% likelihood to recommend the event; an increase of 20% from last year). Give your funders a clear vision of how you are making a mark through your project or program.

 4. Use reporting as an opportunity for growth and learning

Reporting takes time and effort. There is no simple or one-size-fits-all approach that will work across all projects. Context will drive your approach and results. Make sure you review your prior years’ reports, revise them with a critical eye, and strive to improve further in the next round. In multi-year awards, consider investing time in a template that can be reused every year for precision, but also be sure to include your latest ideas and efforts to build upon each year’s progress.

5. Change your mindset: ENJOY the reporting process

This is our single most important recommendation. Reporting can be an enjoyable experience. It is a chance to showcase your work and your contributions to science and to society. Be proud of your team and your accomplishments, and make sure to present the necessary evidence to back up your impact claims with reliable and valid data.

And, lastly, don’t forget to look at the resources and guidance offered by your specific funding agency. For instance, for NIH, go here; for NSF, go here; for the CDC, go here, for NIJ, go here.

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This project is funded by the National Library of Medicine (NLM), National Institutes of Health (NIH) under cooperative agreement number UG4LM012343 with the University of Washington.

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