Good reviews are invaluable in helping the board or panel make funding decisions. They may use your review to help decide whether the application should be discussed at the full meeting or be rejected at triage or shortlisting.
Reviewers are chosen for their expertise in a particular field of research. Some funding opportunities may require reviewers with different levels of expertise or particular skill-sets. In certain circumstances we may ask a reviewer to consider a single aspect of an application, for example a particular methodological approach or one strand of a multi-faceted application.
If you are approached to provide a review, you will receive an email containing the details of the application. You will normally be asked to complete the review online, using the Joint electronic Submission System (Je-S). Logging into Je-S gives access to all the information you need to carry out your review. You will be able to see the application documents including the case for support, justification of resources, data management plan, CVs and other documents.
Writing a good review
The review form will contain various questions about the proposed work and your assessment of it. Your constructive feedback will be shared anonymously with the applicant, which could help to improve their research. For those progressing to the next stage, the applicant will have the opportunity to respond to questions you raise.
- read the assessment criteria and scoring matrix
- provide a balanced assessment of the application 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 application or not
- be aware that not everyone reading the comment will be a specialist in that field,
include references and be aware of bias.
- make it personal
- reiterate the application 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 (4,000 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. MRC is committed to the San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment (sfdora.org/). Please ensure you refer to the responsible use of metrics.
- 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 application represent good value for money?
If you cannot comment within the suggested timescale, please confirm this immediately so we can discuss extending the deadline or consider approaching another reviewer. You can contact our board and panel teams, see details below.
After you submit your review
Your review is passed to the board or panel members, who will use it to inform their assessment of the application. In most cases but not all this involves a triage or shortlisting after which some applications are rejected, followed by a meeting where the most competitive applications are discussed, and a final funding decision is made.
Your review will be made available to the applicant. In most cases , those applicants that pass-through triage will have the opportunity to respond to reviewers’ comments before the board or panel meeting.
You will be informed when an application you have reviewed is successful. The outcomes of all funding decisions will be published on the MRC website soon after the board or panel meeting.
Ask about the peer review process
Ask about Je-S
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone: 01793 444164.
The help desk is staffed Monday to Thursday 8:30 to 17:00 and Fridays 8:30 to 16:30, excluding bank holidays and other holidays. Further guidance on using Je-S can be found on the Je-S help pages or by contacting the Je-S help desk.
Last updated: 16 February 2023