The funding bodies have adopted a code of practice for everybody who works with or for UKRI. This code embraces the ‘Seven Principles of Public Life’ (also known as the Nolan Principles) which are endorsed by Parliament.
The principles cover:
Reviewers must treat all information relating to applications in confidence, keep any personally retained information secure and destroy it once the review process has been completed. Reviewers must not share any information, knowledge or data obtained from peer review documentation with other individuals or third parties under any circumstances.
Reviewers should review all information based on the instructions given in the system’s help text. They should refer any questions related to reviewing the application to the UKRI helpdesk and must not contact applicants directly.
We usually keep reviewers’ identities anonymous*. We may share anonymised comments with applicants and the submitting organisation, and give applicants the opportunity to respond to completed reviews to support transparency of decision making.
*There may be occasions where identities are shared with boards or panels for specific reasons.
The funding bodies expect all parties to respect the roles of all those involved in the peer review process. If you feel unable to comment, you should let the UKRI helpdesk know as soon as possible so that we can find alternative reviewers. We welcome suggestions for possible alternative reviewers.
Conflicts of interest
An important part of the protocols is avoiding any conflicts between personal interests and the interests of the funding bodies. In the context of peer reviewing applications and final reports, a conflict of interest could occur from the following types of relationships:
The acid test is whether a member of the public, knowing the facts of the situation, might reasonably think the judgement could be influenced by the potential conflict of interest.
If your involvement in assessing an application or final report might be perceived as a conflict of interest, you should either:
- decline the invitation to review it
- contact the UKRI helpdesk for further advice.
Sometimes applicants ask us not to invite certain individuals to review their applications or final reports. Because of this, reviewers must not show applications or final reports to others or ask anybody else to review them on their behalf.
The funding bodies are committed to equal opportunities in all their activities. Reviewers must avoid any bias in their assessments or final reports due to:
- racial or ethnic origin
- sexual orientation
- religious belief.
Reviewers’ comments must not break this policy, or be defamatory or otherwise actionable.
Protection of information and ideas
The integrity of peer review is dependent on the selflessness of reviewers. Reviewers must treat all information relating to the consideration of applications and final reports as strictly confidential and seen for the purpose of review only.
We do not encourage taking any copies of information from the system, but recognise this may be required in some circumstances. Any copies taken must be held securely and reviewers must report any loss* of this information to firstname.lastname@example.org. After assessment, reviewers must destroy all documentation relating to the review. Reviewers must not take advantage of any information obtained as a result of their role.
*This can include loss of hardcopies and theft of devices which have copies stored on the hard drive.
By accepting these protocols, reviewers will be legally bound to keep the information contained in the applications in strict confidence and in safe custody. They will not use, copy or record any confidential information for any reason other than the peer review process.
The obligations of confidentiality will not apply to any information which can be shown to be in the reviewer’s possession before this agreement.
Progress in research depends on honesty and the presentation of genuine results. The funding bodies take research misconduct, including misrepresentation in applications or final reports, very seriously. We expect reviewers to let us know about any instances of research misconduct as a matter of urgency.
Reviewers should raise any questions about this issue arising from the review of applications or final reports with the UKRI helpdesk. There’s also further advice on our website, including guidance for reviewers about how we make decisions.