Studies show that EPSRC is successful at selecting reviewers with appropriate expertise. Panel member feedback gives approval ratings to our choices typically between 90 and 95% mark.
Within EPSRC the selection of reviewers is the responsibility of portfolio managers.
When proposals are received by EPSRC they are routed to the appropriate area via the routing classification chosen by the applicant.
Portfolio managers classify proposals using research areas, research topics and keywords. These are identified from the proposal form and case for support of each proposal and also the work packages which detail what research will be carried out. Work plans are also considered particularly for multidisciplinary proposals.
Portfolio managers will discuss multidisciplinary proposals with others from relevant themes and also with colleagues from other research councils to ensure that the full breadth of the proposal is covered.
Once classified it is these research topics and keywords that help identify suitable reviewers.
At least four reviewers will normally be initially approached. Where possible they will be chosen from members of the EPSRC Peer Review College. Of the initial reviewers chosen, at least one will be from the applicant’s nominations.
Portfolio managers have access to automated reviewer matching tools to help identify suitable reviewers. Potential reviewers will have added their own individual research topics and keywords to their Joint Electronic Submission (Je-S) system accounts. Reviewer matching will list those people who match the classifications on the proposal.
Although the system can aid in the identification of reviewers the portfolio manager will always use their expertise and knowledge in the final selection.
In addition to the above, portfolio managers may also identify reviewers by various methods including:
- using their knowledge of the community to find suitable reviewers
- checking who the Principal Investigator (PI) of the proposal had previously reviewed for
- checking the keywords of the investigators to identify potential keywords to match
- looking at reviewers on the PI’s previous proposals or similar proposals in the area
- asking the community to recommend reviewers
- looking at the list of references although checking that they have not worked with the group
- using searches such as web of knowledge, Cordis, Thomson ISI, Microsoft Academic.
Once a potential reviewer has been identified
Once a potential reviewer has been identified the portfolio manager will consider the following:
- whether the reviewer is a college member
- whether the reviewer has been used significantly more heavily than others working in a similar area (college members may be approached to review a maximum of 12 proposals over a 12-month period)
- whether there are any conflicts of interest with those named on the proposal or with any project partners and collaborators.
Conflicts of interest
EPSRC has a policy that conflicts of interest should be identified and avoided so that peer review advice is not compromised.
Selecting the investigator-nominated reviewer
Investigators are asked to nominate three potential reviewers. Portfolio managers will select the nominee who is closest to the area of research being proposed or can provide an opinion on different aspects of the proposal to other reviewers chosen.
Of course, although EPSRC undertakes to approach nominated reviewers there is no guarantee that a response will be received.
Selecting reviewers for multidisciplinary proposals
The proposal work packages and work plan are the main assistance in choosing reviewers for multidisciplinary proposals. These allow portfolio managers to understand the areas involved and apply a percentage to each.
This forms the basis of the number of reviewers that will be chosen from each area. We may seek a larger number of reviewers on these proposals to ensure complete coverage.
Ideally, reviewers will be approached if they work at the boundary of the areas identified and carry out multidisciplinary research, particularly reviewers who can review the full breadth of the proposal.
Where this is not possible reviewers will be approached to ensure coverage of each identified area as it can be difficult for prioritisation panel members to reach a conclusion on such proposals if the reviewers are all from the same area.
To this end portfolio managers will discuss multidisciplinary proposals with colleagues across themes and across research councils.