How is NERC changing its peer review processes?

NERC is making changes to its peer review processes to strengthen and streamline the assessment of responsive mode grants.   NERC  has agreed a series of reforms to improve the consistency, quality and transparency of peer review that identifies the very best research proposals to fund.

The following changes will apply to responsive mode research grant and fellowship calls with closing dates on or after 1 October 2013.

Consistency of review number and expertise – For each scheme minimum and optimal number of peer review reports required have been agreed; these are detailed in the assessment process. Decisions will only be made based on lower or higher number of reviews in exceptional circumstances.

The reviews will be provided by a combination of NERC College members and internationally-recognised experts, depending on where the most appropriate expertise exists. Reviewers who consider they have low expertise will no longer be asked to contribute.

Standard grant process – There will no longer be a ‘sift’ to reject uncompetitive proposals during the review process. All proposals will reach the stage where there is an opportunity to respond to review comments. Proposals, reviews and responses will then be assessed by two panel members who will assign a ‘pre-score’ for excellence. The Chair will then prioritise the proposals to discuss at the moderating panel. NERC will aim to provide decisions on the majority of Standard Grant proposals within 20 weeks of the closing date.

Moderating panels – Half of the membership of any panel will regularly attend as ‘Core Panel Members’ and there will be an identified Chair. Flexibility to select members from the College according to the particular proposals being considered will remain. For schemes where multiple panels meet (ie Standard Grants and Fellowships), business will be divided between panels with stable remits. A preliminary panel structure will be announced in June 2013. Applicants will select the panel to consider their proposal during submission.

Feedback – Panel members will be responsible for the content of feedback from panels to applicants. For any proposal discussed, moderating panel feedback will automatically be provided.

Peer Review College – Changes to the NERC Peer Review College from January 2014 are also planned, and its performance will be more actively managed. A membership review and recruitment initiative (call opening June 2013) will take place, to continue to increase the number of established academics and grant holders involved as College members and Chairs. Members will have a lead responsibility for either reviewing or moderating panel activities. Core Panel Members will be identified to work within the new moderating panels.

When will these changes happen? 

From January 2014. The PRC year will start from January rather than July from that point onwards. In the meantime there will be a call for new membership in June 2013.