Transparency of peer review process
We have made a number of changes to our reviewing procedures, which will enhance the transparency of the peer review process for applicants.
Feedback of reviewers’ scores
From 1 April 2012 we will feed back to applicants not only the text of reviewers’ comments, but also the scores assigned to the individual elements of the proposal, and their overall grading of the application.
Editing of reviewers’ comments
In the past, the office has edited reviewers’ comments to remove remarks that might cause unnecessary offence, are not deemed to be constructive, or disclose the identity of the reviewer. This process has now ceased; instead we pass to the applicant precisely the comments received. This provides greater transparency and is also in accord with data handling standards. However, if a comment received is considered unusable in its current form it will be referred back to the reviewer for revision. Reasons why a comment might be felt to be unusable include:
- Reviewer’s identity disclosed
- Discriminatory or gratuitously offensive remarks
- Inadequate justification of the scores assigned to the proposal
- Text does not match the scores
- Text suggests a misunderstanding of ESRC policy, such as remit of a call
If the reviewer chooses not to amend their comments their review will not be used, and will not form part of the peer review process.
Number of reviewers’ comments
We now seek a standard number of three reviews on all grant proposals irrespective of value of award (bar some call-specific variations).
Previously the number of reviews required for a proposal to be fully reviewed in our peer-review process depended on the monetary value of the proposal. Three reviews were required for proposals up to £500,000, four for proposals of £500,000-£1 million, and five for those in the range £1-£2 million. These varying requirements added a layer of complexity to the review process, and tended to cause potentially unfair variability in the final number of reviews received, particularly for larger proposals.
We still have the freedom to decide that more reviews are needed for a particular proposal that is, for example, highly interdisciplinary (but of any size), particularly complex, or where the quality of the comments received will not effectively contribute to the decision-making process. In addition, there may be some calls which require exceptional rules to be applied, eg fast-track/small-scale investments where only two reviews are sought, or more reviews for the commissioning of large-scale investments, for example the centres and large grants competition.