Part 2: The Jury Process
Drawing Back the Curtain
Vanessa Moeller, Deputy Director
In my last blog post, I outlined the delicate balancing act that goes into putting together a jury. So we have the jury list, now what? What happens behind that mysterious curtain that is the jury? Well, let’s have a look:
After the jury list is done, Joss and I get to work photocopying and creating packages to send to the jurors. These packages contain copies of the applications, directions to the jury, expense claims, a conflict of interest form, information on the program being juried, and any other information we need to send to the juror (hotel information, directions, etc). Jurors are expected to review the files using a scoring rubric that is attached to each application and score the file out of 10. Since our mandate is to fund excellence, a mark of 8/10 is required for an applicant to be considered for funding.
On jury day, jurors arrive either in person or via phone for teleconferences. The role of the program officer at the beginning of these meetings is to give the charge to the jury, which is a fancy way of saying that the jury is reminded what they are there to do and what is expected of them. We review the criteria the program, the evaluation sheet, and also discuss whether anyone has a conflict of interest. If anyone in the jury room, artsnb staff included, has a conflict of interest with any of the files, then that individual is asked to leave the jury room for any deliberations around that file so that all remaining jurors can express themselves freely and no one can influence a jury based on personal bias. That said, it would be absolutely impossible to put a jury together in NB where there isn’t a juror who doesn’t know one or more applicants. This is why it is important to discuss the conflict of interest protocol early and openly.
After the initial charge, we dive into the applications. Each juror is given an opportunity to express his or her opinion on the strengths and weaknesses of the application. The program officers record these notes so if applicants call for feedback, we can give it. We introduced a new scoring sheet at the April 2014 Creation jury and this has helped the juries be very specific about what the strengths and weaknesses of an application are, and it allows us, as program officers, to give clearer, more detailed feedback to our clients. As I already noted in my post about the role of the program officer, we are Switzerland — neutral and democratic in the jury, acting as facilitators of the peer evaluation process. We don’t have any say in who receives funding; it is completely at the discretion of the peer evaluation jury.
When all the files have been discussed and scored, the program officer pulls a list ranking the scores from highest to lowest. The budget for the program is only revealed at this stage of the process and we proceed down the list until either all the money is spent (often) or we run out of applicants who have attained a score of 8/10 (rare). There is usually a bit of discussion at this point but very often the jury is happy to see really interesting, innovative, excellent art projects getting funding.
At this point everyone is usually very tired and the jurors head home. For Joss and I, we move on to the next phases of the process. First we create a list of recipients and jurors, which is sent to the board for approval. After this approval, we start to issue cheque requests and, slowly but surely, the letters with the results from the competitions leave artsnb and head out into the world.