Issue No 8: May 2004
The RGCs peer review of research project proposals is kept under constant review. The following Q&A look at points of general policy:
How are the external reviewers of funding applications selected?
Nominations are made by responsible RGC panel members. They may also come from Principal Investigators (PIs) of the research proposals themselves and a database maintained by the Council. Anyone involved in an earlier assessment of an application under scrutiny, as requested by the submitting institution, should not take part in the RGCs peer review of the same proposal. External reviewers should declare any substantial relationship with the PI or the institution involved.
How does the RGC ensure there is no conflict of interests between applicant and any reviewer they nominate?
Applicants must declare on the research grant application form any substantial relationship they have, or have had, with the reviewers they nominate. It is also the collective responsibility of all applicants (ie, PIs as well as all co-investigators) involved in the grant application to make the declaration fully and accurately. The RGC advises applicants not to nominate a person if in doubt. Any application that fails to follow the declaration requirements may be disqualified. In any case, failure to declare relationships fully and accurately reflects poorly on the PIs. This will be taken into account as part of the PIs track record when the RGC assesses future applications from the same PI and the Council has the ultimate right to reject or disqualify future applications in serious cases.
Will the RGC re-appoint the same external reviewers to evaluate re-submitted applications?
Selection of reviewers is wholly up to the responsible panel members and, if considered appropriate, panel members can choose the same group of reviewers to evaluate re-submitted applications. Under existing RGC policy, re-submitted proposals are treated as fresh applications in peer-review and handled on a par with other new applications. Panels are therefore not obliged to invite the same group of external reviewers, although they would take into account the applicants responses to the assessors comments fed back in earlier exercises.
Can the peer review processing cycle be shortened?
To compress the processing cycle for CERG applications,
the Council Secretariat is considering the possibility of shortening the
time-frame for reviewers to respond to and return assessments. In the
longer term, the situation should improve significantly when the CERG
Electronic Information System is fully implemented. The system was launched
in June 2002 to process CERG proposals submitted to the Physical Sciences
Panel. Subject to the outcome of a review on the response rate of reviewers
in the current exercise, plans are in hand to extend the use of the system
to the Engineering Panel from June 2004.