Peer review process - ESRC

The majority of Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) grants assessment operates as follows:

  • applications are typically considered by three peer reviewers
  • peer reviews are sought from our Peer Review College members as well as non-college members
  • applications which have received enough support from reviewers will go forward to the assessment panel which typically occurs three times a year, and you can provide a response to the reviewers’ comments prior to the panel meeting
  • applications which do not receive sufficient support from reviewers will not be processed further and will be ‘review rejected’
  • panel members grade and rank applications in order of funding priority, taking peer reviewers’ comments into consideration
  • the panel’s recommendations are considered by the Director of Research at ESRC, and a final funding decision is taken

How we use reviews

We seek independent expert reviewers from various sources, including the ESRC Peer Review College. The Peer Review College consists of qualified social scientists and economists with experience of nationally and internationally competitive research relevant to ESRC’s remit, as well as users and stakeholders of economic and social science research. Where necessary or appropriate, we also invite non-college members to peer review our applications.

We typically seek three reviews on all grant applications, irrespective of the value of the award. We may decide that more reviews are needed for a particular application that is, for example, highly interdisciplinary, 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 (for example fast-track or 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 scheme).

Feedback to applicants

Regardless of the funding decisions, we feed back to applicants not only the text of reviewers’ comments but also the scores assigned to the individual elements of the comment, and their overall grading of the application.

The feedback with reviewer comments to the applicant provides greater transparency and is also in accord with data handling standards. Reviewers are therefore reminded of the need to provide professional and constructive comments.

The completed reviews seen by the applicants remain anonymous. All the personal details and the self-assessment sections on the form will automatically be removed from the version seen by applicants.

Case officers at ESRC read all peer reviews (scores and comments) that are received. If a comment is considered unusable, it may be referred back to the reviewer for revision. Reasons why a comment might be considered unusable include:

  • the reviewer’s identity is disclosed
  • there are discriminatory or gratuitously offensive remarks
  • the text does not match the scores
  • the text suggests a misunderstanding of ESRC policy, such as the remit of a funding opportunity

Last updated: 18 May 2023

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