How to write a good review - MRC

Good reviews are invaluable in helping the board or panel make funding decisions. They also provide constructive feedback to applicants to help them improve their research.

Bear in mind how your review will be used. Board and panel members will use your comments and score to help them in their assessment. They may use your review to help decide whether the proposal should be discussed at the full meeting or be rejected at triage. Your report will be fed back anonymously to the applicant, who will have an opportunity to respond to questions you raise should it progress to the second stage of review.

Do:

  • read the assessment criteria and scoring matrix
  • be objective and professional
  • provide a balanced assessment of the proposal in the context of any disruptions to the applicant or team caused by the COVID-19 pandemic
  • provide clear and concise comments and objective criticism
  • clearly identify strengths and weaknesses
  • provide justification for your comments and the score, whether you are supportive of the proposal or not
  • be aware that not everyone reading the comment will be a specialist in that field
  • include references
  • be aware of unconscious bias.

Don’t:

  • make it personal
  • reiterate the proposal or restate the assessment questions
  • penalise the applicant or team for disruptions to their careers resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic
  • include anything in the assessment that will identify you such as references to your own work, where you have worked or who you have worked with
  • exceed the space restriction in Je-S (4000 characters per section), otherwise the rest of your review will be lost
  • allow your review to be influenced by bias for your own field of research.

Questions to ask yourself:

  • how important are the research questions, or gaps in knowledge, that would be addressed?
  • are the researchers up to the job? Do they have the right team, experience and infrastructure? Are they at the forefront nationally or internationally?
  • have you appropriately considered any unequal impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic described by the applicant?
  • what are the strengths and weaknesses?
  • is the methodology and experimental design clearly set out and justified? Are the methods appropriate? What could they do better? Are there alternative approaches?
  • are there major flaws or weaknesses?
  • are there any ethical issues?
  • does this proposal represent good value for money?

Last updated: 28 February 2022

This is the integrated website of the seven research councils, Research England and Innovate UK.
Let us know if you have feedback or would like to help us test new developments.