At the moment the Arts and Humanities Research Council are recruiting new members for their review panels. I have been member of the review college (as it’s grandly called) for just over two years have reviewed many bids in that time. Like Dr. Richard Shipway of the School of Tourism – who has recently posted about his experiences reviewing for the ESRC – I’ve found it to be a surprisingly enjoyable experience.
I get around 4-5 bids to review a year. It is all done online – although you can save and print all of the documents as PDFs if you want. I’ve looked at all sorts of bids, submitted by all sorts of academics, at varying stages of their career. Sometimes I have heard of the researcher, sometimes not. Sometimes I know a great deal about the proposed topic, sometimes not so much. That’s OK, because you can evaluate your own expertise in commenting on a proposal when reviewing the bid – this is great if you’re not entirely comfortable.
So, you get to see what other people are bidding for, and for what. The review process then directly informs your own bidding activity. The training for reviewers – at Polaris House in Swindon – is excellent, and the regular sessions are a further opportunity to meet other academics from all over the UK. The most useful thing though is to read and discuss same successful and unsuccessful bids with other reviewers, panel chairs and AHRC staff.
Being a reviewer gives me a great insight into the ways in which a successful research proposal can be crafted. It’s like being at the other end of the ‘pipe’ because on one hand I’m putting together bids with my colleagues here at BU, and then I’m very often reading the submissions at the same time. Right now I have a proposal sitting in my inbox waiting to be reviewed, alongside an almost complete proposal I’m working on with a colleague at the University of Wolverhampton, which we will be submitting to the AHRC very soon.
For me, this dialog between the two processes (reviewing and writing) has been invaluable, and has certainly improved the practice of putting together research bids. It’s also shaped my thinking a lot more strategically in terms of what to go for, and who to work with.
There is still time to put yourself forward as an AHRC reviewer and I would highly recommend it.
If you’re interested in being nominated as a reviewer for the AHRC then read how to do so here: AHRC Still Seeking Nominations for Peer Reviewers