Top Tips: Reviewing a Research Proposal


The peer review process is invaluable in assisting research panels to make decisions about funding. Independent experts scrutinise the importance, potential and cost-effectiveness of the research being proposed.

  1. Check the funder’s website for guidance
    Ensure you are clear on what type of proposal you are being asked to review and read the assessment criteria and scoring matrix as a priority. Many funding councils have prepared comprehensive guidance for reviewers that is freely available online. As an example, EPSRC and ESRC guidance can be accessed here:

    EPSRC: https://www.epsrc.ac.uk/funding/assessmentprocess/review/formsandguidancenotes/standardcalls/

    ESRC: http://www.esrc.ac.uk/funding/guidance-for-peer-reviewers/

  2. Be objective and professional
    Provide clear and concise comments and objective criticism when identifying strengths and weaknesses in the proposal. Whether or not there are major flaws or ethical concerns, provide justification and references for your comments and the score you provide. Remain anonymous by avoiding referring to your own work or any personal information. Don’t allow your review to be influenced by bias for your own field of research and be mindful of unconscious bias and the impact this could have on your review. See: https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/uk/ for further information and demonstrative tests.

  3. Be concise but clear
    Many submission systems have character limits for the review sections, so you will need to be concise. However, you should be conscious that not everyone reading your review comments will be a specialist in your field so use accessible language throughout.

  4. Remember to praise a good proposal
    If you find that the proposal you’re reviewing is good, you should say so and explain why.

  5. Take your time
    Finally, allow enough time to thoroughly read the proposal before writing and submitting your review. If you feel you need more time to complete your review, then contact the funder to request a deadline extension. Most funders would prefer that you request an extension, and provide a more comprehensive review, than submit something brief and uninformative because there was inadequate time for you to consider it in detail.

References

Andrew (2014, May 19). Review a research grant-application in five minutes. Retrieved from: http://www.researchfundingtoolkit.org/review-a-research-grant-application-in-five-minutes/

Medical Research Council (2017) Guidance for peer reviewers. Retrieved from: https://www.mrc.ac.uk/documents/pdf/reviewers-handbook/

Prosser, R. (2016, September 19). 8 top tips for writing a useful grant review. Insight. Retrieved from: http://www.insight.mrc.ac.uk/2016/09/19/8-top-tips-for-writing-a-useful-review/