Aims of the EPSRC assessment process
UKRI has published a set of clear principles that support its peer review assessment and decision-making processes. Of these, transparency is deemed of particular importance for its assessment processes.
The process will be transparent and the details of assessment made available to all involved. Before submission, applicants should be aware of the assessment criteria and process that their proposal will be subject to.
Following the review of an application, we endeavour where possible to make the comments available to applicants in advance of the panel meeting, so that the applicants can respond to comments by reviewers.
The standard EPSRC process includes a postal peer review stage. This means sending electronically the proposal and associated documents including a reviewer form out to a number of people to review, make comments and score the proposal against set criteria.
Assessment criteria may vary between schemes.
Applications with not enough support from reviewers
Where the majority of reviews are unsupportive, the proposal will be ‘review rejected’ at the review stage and the applicant will no longer qualify for the Right to Reply.
There is no hierarchy between reviewers and panel members, they are of equal standing within the process but carry out different roles. The reviewer considers the strengths and weaknesses of a specific proposal whereas the panel members give a subjective judgement across a group of proposals.
Applications with enough support from reviewers
Applications that have received enough support from reviewers will go forward to the panel.
Prior to the panel, usable reviewer comments (those included in the decision process) are sent to the applicant to allow them an opportunity to correct factual inaccuracies and respond to any queries raised by the reviewers. This stage of the process gives applicants a right to reply.
The reviewer forms and principal investigator response form the basis of where the proposal will be positioned on the rank order list by a peer review panel and ultimately to whether the proposal is funded. Panel members are not permitted to review proposals again. This means that no additional judgements are made without the applicant being able to respond.
When we use the standard process
Most proposals that are received through our standard research scheme will go through the EPSRC standard peer review process. Many managed funding opportunities also follow this process.
Non-postal peer review process
In this process the proposal is not sent to postal peer review. The funding opportunity will state the assessment process that the proposals will be taken through to ensure that all applicants know how their proposal will be assessed before they submit an application to EPSRC.
When we use the non postal peer review process
The process is only used for some managed funding opportunities. Often these opportunities have specific requirements meaning that the standard process would not be the ideal approach.
Funding opportunities with an outline stage
Some funding opportunities will include an initial outline stage. Outlines involve submitting a brief summary of the proposed research without the information needed in a full proposal, such as in-depth costings and work plans.
Outlines do not go to postal peer review. Instead a panel will decide which outlines should be invited to submit a full proposal. Full proposals would then be considered through the standard process detailed above.
All outline funding opportunities will state in the funding opportunity the assessment criteria that will be used when deciding which outlines will go to the next stage. These criteria will differ to those for the full proposal stage.
Expressions of interest (EOI)
These are less formal than an outline. Normally no financial information would be required.
EOIs do not go to postal peer review. Instead they are considered by a panel and those to be progressed would be invited to a full proposal stage. Full proposals would then be considered through the standard process detailed above
As with outline funding opportunities, EOIs will state the assessment criteria that will be used when deciding which outlines will go to the next stage in the funding opportunity. These criteria will differ to those for the full proposal stage.
Sandpits are residential interactive workshops usually held over five days, involving 20 to 30 participants that will include the director, a team of expert mentors and a number of independent stakeholders.
An EOI is used for the initial application to participate in a sandpit. The panel who review the EOIs will also be involved in the sandpit.
Outcomes of sandpits may range from a single large research project to several smaller projects, feasibility studies, networking activities, overseas visits and other activity.
The outcomes are not predetermined but are defined during the sandpit. Sandpits do not use postal peer review.
Peer review is carried out in real time during the sandpit allowing applicants the opportunity to respond at this time. Those successful will submit a full proposal which will be validated by the original panel to ensure that the scope remains as agreed at the sandpit.