Frequently asked questions for peer reviewers - ESRC

1. Can I download a copy of the peer review form?

ESRC uses the Joint Electronic Submission (Je-S) system to support its peer review process. You will need to log in to your Je-S account to review a proposal.

2. This isn’t really my area of expertise, are you sure you’ve got the right person?

When we select peer reviewers, we try to find individuals who can comment on a range of issues relevant to the proposal, including scientific merit, research design, the particular methodology proposed and the proposed data analysis. It may be that your interests match a very specific aspect of the proposal you have been sent. If you are in any doubt, email ESRC on esrcpeerreview@esrc.ukri.org.

3. I’ve never done this before. How long do my comments have to be?

There is no set length for peer review comments – you may be able to summarise your views concisely, or you may wish to comment on a number of specific aspects of the proposal or final report in detail. Relatively short comments that are clearly stated, well justified and constructive are more useful to any committee or panel (as well as applicants) than rambling or unfocused ones. The average review is between one and two pages in length.

4. I can’t provide a response by the deadline. Can I have an extension?

In the first instance you should email ESRC on esrcpeerreview@esrc.ukri.org. If a review is received after the due date and you have not sought prior approval to submit it late, ESRC may not be able to use it.

We do realise that everyone we approach is already very busy, and we will try to accommodate the wishes of reviewers and issue extensions to deadlines wherever possible. However, a  timely response from all peer reviewers is crucial to obtain a sufficient number of reviews by the panel cut-off date.

5. Will my review remain confidential?

Our peer review forms have two sections to them – a confidential section and a section for comments which will be fed back to the applicant. Usually, the whole form will be forwarded to the panel who will make a recommendation on the proposal.

Only the comments for the feedback section will be sent back, anonymously, to the applicant.

6. I think that there is a conflict of interest. Should I really comment on this proposal?

If you feel you may have a potential conflict of interest, you should note this in the confidential section of the reply form or email ESRC on esrcpeerreview@esrc.ukri.org for advice. For example, if you are reviewing an application and you plan to submit your own application to the same grants scheme in the near future, you should state this.

We accept that it is likely that academics who work in the same field may know each other, and this does not necessarily bar you from commenting on a proposal. Most of our peer review forms contain a confidential section on ‘knowledge of applicant’ where this information can be declared.

If your knowledge of or relationship with the applicant is such that you feel it would be difficult to be objective when commenting on the proposal, email ESRC on esrcpeerreview@esrc.ukri.org. You should state that you would rather not comment on this occasion, and explain why. We can make a note of this for future reference if necessary.

7. How did you come to select me as a peer reviewer?

ESRC has a peer review college from which our peer reviewers are selected. However, we also seek peer reviews from outside the college membership where appropriate. Reviewers are selected by ESRC case officers who have a background in a wide variety of social science areas.

8. I can’t provide a review but my colleague might be able to. Can I pass the application or report on to them?

This type of suggestion is very useful. Since applications and reports must be treated confidentially, do not pass these documents on to colleagues. Instead, you should decline to review, then enter the names and contact details of any potential reviewers using the Je-S system.

9. Will I be paid to carry out this review?

Unfortunately, except in very exceptional circumstances, we are unable to pay reviewers.

Last updated: 28 February 2022

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