Academia has become more demanding than twenty years ago, particularly, the job outwith university. Just this morning I received three requests to review a paper. Each from a very reputable journal and a each a legitimate requests, i.e. I asking me to assess a paper in a my academic field.
Reviewing papers and grant applications is, of course, part of my academic responsibilities, and hence part of my scholarly practice. But I am already reviewing five NIHR (National Institute for Health Research) grant applications this weekend, as well as an other paper for BMC Pregnancy & Childbirth, and there are two PhD theses next my bed which I need to exam. On top of this I have been ignoring several reminder invitations to review a research proposal for the Croatian Science Foundation, as I simply do not have time to do so, however, much I would like to do so.
The forthcoming REF 2021 is not helping. UK academics are frantically submitting their manuscripts to academic journals to have them in print before the end of 2020, to beat the REF 2021 deadline. The flip-side of this reviewing coin is that my collaborators and I have had three papers turned down in the past year by a reputable journal as it could not find appropriate reviewers. Three articles on three very different aspects of our work, one a UK-based study, one a European study and one a study based in Nepal. For two of these manuscripts the journal took nearly a year to come back to us, wasting the chance to submit the paper elsewhere.
Perhaps it is due the rose-tinted spectacles of looking at the past, perhaps is it simply my level of seniority (compared to twenty years ago) but I don’t think so. The underlying trend is that the volume of papers submitted to journals is growing faster than the number of academics volunteering to review. This blog is, therefor, also a call for my academic colleagues to step up and agree to review on (extra) paper. Interestingly, I made a not dissimilar call in a BU Research Blog eight years ago! Unfortunately, the overall situation has not improved.
I haven’t even mentioned the exponential growth in email requests to academics submit papers to so-called predatory journals! I counted 15 requests in the past two days alone and it is only 10 AM on Saturday morning so more to follow later today.
Prof. Edwin van Teijlingen
Once you have submitted you manuscript to a scientific journal, the editor has a (quick) look at it and sends it out for review. As I remind students and colleagues in training sessions on academic writing and publishing, the editor and the peer reviewers are academics like me and my colleagues who do both the editing and the reviewing, for free and over and above the day job. Being an editor and a reviewer are part of being any academic’s so-called scholarly activity. We are expected to do this as part of the wider scientific community for the benefit of our academic discipline(s).
When an academic receives an invitation to peer review, the journal will send you a copy of the paper’s abstract. On reading this abstract you then decide whether you wish to do the review. If the paper sounds interesting and it is in your field and you have the time you may volunteer to conduct a review. Once you have agreed you will get the full paper (or more likely you are send a link to the publisher’s website). The requirements of the review report varies between disciplines and often between journals. Some follow an informal structure, but others have a more formal approach, sometimes with scoring systems for sections of the paper.
Unfortunately, academics across the globe are experiencing an ‘epidemic’ of invitations to review for scientific journals. And I am not talking about so-called predatory publishers, i.e. journals and publishers that are only in it for the monetary gain, no I am talking about legitimate journals sending out invitations to review for them. Especially scholars with a few decent publications receive several emails a week from often high quality scientific journals. The photo of my email inbox shows three invitations in a row I received in the space of two hours last week (10th July), two are even from different Associate Editors for the same journal!
I would like to stress that doing peer reviews is very important. It is the backbone of academic publishing. Reviewing is part of our overall scholarly responsibility so we all do it, although some more than others. We all have are favourite journals to review for, perhaps because the journal is high quality, or we like to publish in it ourselves, because we know the editor, or our reviewing is recognised on websites like KUDOS. I would like to urge colleagues who don’t manage to review at least once a month to step up and agree to review a wee bit more often.
Prof. Edwin van Teijlingen
Centre for Midwifery, Maternal & Perinatal Health
The Times Higher Education (THE) have published an article where seven academics offer tips on good refereeing, and reflect on how it may change. You may have to register on the THE site to read the full article.
ESRC is inviting applications from academics suitably experienced in the social sciences to act as members of their Grants Assessment Panels (GAPs).
About the Panels
The ESRC is the UK’s leading agency for research and training in the social sciences. Their Grants Assessment Panels (GAPs) assess proposals for most responsive mode schemes across the range of ESRC’s activities.
There are currently three Panels organised around a cluster of disciplines with a fourth panel that considers proposals submitted to the Secondary Data Analysis Initiative (SDAI). Between them the Panels cover the whole of ESRC’s disciplinary remit.
Membership of a GAP is an opportunity to work with other experienced people from across the academic, public, business and civil society sectors to help ensure ESRC funds high quality research with academic, economic and societal impact. Members will also have an opportunity to feed into, and learn about ESRC policy development.
ESRC are currently looking for applications specifically in the following disciplinary areas:
Human Geography (panel A)
- Essential: Should have expertise across the Human Geography remit
- Desirable: Specific expertise in areas such as inequality, migration, environment and climate change would be desirable.
Psychology (panel A) – post 1
- Essential: Should be a social psychologist with broad expertise covering quantitative and qualitative methods
- Desirable: Specific expertise in areas such as attitudes, ‘Identity, diversity and inequality’ and ‘Individual differences’ would be desirable
Psychology (panel A) – post 2
- Essential: Should have a broad expertise across the Psychology remit
- Desirable: Specific expertise in behaviour change, developmental psychology and mental health would be desirable.
Sociology/ Social Policy (panel D)
- Essential: Should have a broad expertise across the sociology and social policy disciplines.
- Desirable: This post is for Panel D and therefore requires someone with expertise in quantitative methods and secondary data analysis
Education (panel B)
- Essential: Should have a broad expertise across the sociology and social policy disciplines.
- Desirable: Specific expertise in primary education and quantitative research methods would be desirable
Education (panel D)
- Essential: Should have a broad expertise across the sociology and social policy disciplines.
- Desirable: This post is for panel D and therefore requires someone with expertise in quantitative methods and secondary data analysis
Linguistics (panel B)
- Essential: Should have broad expertise across the linguistics discipline
- Desirable: Specific expertise in second language acquisition and/or language processing would be desirable
Socio-legal studies (panel B)
- Essential: Should have broad expertise across the discipline of socio-legal studies
- Desirable: Specific expertise in criminology, criminal justice and policing would be desirable
Members are expected to assess an average of 30 applications a year and to meet three times a year (in March, July and November) to make funding recommendations. Meetings will alternate between London and Swindon.
New Chair for Panel D
In addition to the appointment of new members, there is also a vacancy to chair Panel D. Panel D covers the Secondary Data Analysis Initiative. See the announcement for further details.
How to apply
Applications should be submitted online no later than 17.00 on 19 May 2017. A short CV (no longer than two A4 pages) should be included.
Successful applicants will be appointed for two years initially, with possible renewal for a further two years. Invitations will be sent to successful candidates in late July/early August and members will be expected to be available for a briefing session on 7 September 2017 in Swindon.
Find out about peer review.
Debate challenges to the system.
Discuss the role of peer review for scientists and the public.
Friday 12th May, 2pm– 6pm
Workshop to be held at Informa’s Offices, 5 Howick Place, London
Peer Review: The nuts and bolts is a free half-day workshop for early career researchers and will explore how peer review works, how to get involved, the challenges to the system, and the role of peer review in helping the public to evaluate research claims.
Should peer review detect plagiarism, bias or fraud? What does peer review do for science and what does the scientific community want it to do for them? Should reviewers remain anonymous? Does it illuminate good ideas or shut them down?
To apply to attend this workshop, please fill out the application form by 9am on Tuesday 25 April: http://bit.ly/2mCFsyr
For more details, get in touch with Joanne Thomas email@example.com.
More information: http://senseaboutscience.org/activities/peer-review-workshop/
From December 2015 the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) will be employing one panel to moderate its Research Grants scheme. This is a change from the current four panel structure which brings the scheme into line with other AHRC funding such as the Leadership Fellows scheme.
There will be no changes to the pre-panel peer review stage. The single panel structure will allow for the AHRC to hold panel meetings more frequently than the current quarterly arrangements, which will lead to more timely delivery of outcomes to applicants.
The Newton Fund is actively inviting expressions of interest from senior and early career researchers to expand their pool of panel members for the Newton Fund initiative and, potentially, other British Council programmes.
Looking at the specialisms below, BU has significant expertise in many of these areas.
They are looking for early career researchers who would like to broaden their experience of peer review as a career development opportunity, and for senior researchers who are willing to share and use their experience to support the review panels. Please note that we can only consider researchers based at UK institutions.
By getting involved in funding panels, you will gain invaluable insights into how a funder functions, how they assess applications, build your network, raise your profile in your field and, potentially, give you the opportunity to influence future funding decisions.
For this particular invitation:
Eligibility Senior and early-career researchers. Early-career researcher is defined as being a PhD holder + up to 10 years. For fields where a PhD is not a usual career requirement, sufficient research experience will be accepted.
Researchers with the following specialisms are eligible to apply:
- Biological and Medical Sciences
- Environment and Agriculture
- Arts and Humanities
- Social Sciences
- Engineering and Physical Sciences
In particular, the Newton Fund would like to hear from researchers who have the following subject specialisms:
- Human rights
- Forensic anthropology
- Marine biology/Oceanography
- Public health/Nutrition
- Food science
- Earth Sciences
Find out more and apply!
The Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) is seeking nominations for new members to be appointed to its Peer Review College (PRC).
Peer review lies at the heart of the AHRC’s operations, and they are fully committed to the principle of peer review for the assessment of proposals to their schemes and programmes. PRC members provide expert quality reviews of proposals within their areas of expertise, which inform the AHRC’s decision making processes. As well as making an important contribution to the AHRC’s peer review processes, the experience gained by membership of the College will provide benefits to you, your department and to Bournemouth University.
Nominations are welcomed for either of the below Calls:
Call for Early Career Researchers (ECRs)
Eligibility – Nominations for all candidates who meet the eligibility for the PRC Academic group (ECR) and who meet the AHRC ECR criteria. At the point of nomination to the college the nominee must be:
- Within eight years of the award of their PhD or equivalent professional training or
- Within six years of their first academic appointment
Please be aware that current AHRC PRC members do not need to apply for this call. Former PRC members are only eligible to apply if their PRC membership ended before 16th April 2013. For further information, read the ECR Call for Nominations advert (PDF 71KB, opens in a new window).
Call for membership of the Strategic and Technical reviewer groups
Eligibility – Nominations for all candidates, from any career stage, who meet the criteria for the Strategic or Technical groups of the AHRC PRC. Current members are eligible to apply for this Call if they meet the criteria for one or either of these groups. Former PRC members are only eligible to apply if their PRC membership ended before 16th April 2013. For further information, click here to view read the Strategic/Technical group Call for Nominations advert (PDF 85KB, opens in a new window).
The deadline for nominations to both Calls is 12 noon on 16th April 2015.
If successful, College members will be appointed for a term commencing 1 October 2015 and ending 31 December 2018.
If you have any queries regarding the nomination process please do not hesitate to contact:
Matthew Carr, AHRC Peer Review College Coordinator (Membership)
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; Tel: 01793 416069
Horizon 2020 is now seeking Evaluators. Don’t worry, they don’t expect you to be an expert in the calls or even to have won funding. Just to be an expert in your subject area.
Registering to be an expert has lots of value – you could get paid to evaluate and monitor projects or evaluate calls for proposals under the schemes. Indeed, becoming an EC evaluator is a fantastic experience; it not only helps you learn what the EC are looking for in proposals, but also enables you to travel to Brussels and network with other reviewers to start forming collaborations yourself.
It’s really simple to sign up, you just pop your details in the form (which isn’t very long) and when an appropriate call or proposal comes up, they will ask if you can review it. If you can’t, you simply let them know and you are not obliged to. You also get until December 2020 to sign up to be a reviewer if you aren’t quite ready yet!
You will get paid a day rate to do the review plus travel and subsistence and you can also still apply for the funding scheme if you are registered as a reviewer (although for a specific call you apply to, you would have to declare a conflict of interest).
More info can be found here
What is the review process?
As anyone submitting a proposal to a research council at BU knows, once you hut the Je-S ‘submit’ button, the proposal then gets sent to R&KEO to undertake final checks. These are all done to ensure your proposal has the best chance of success. This is also a critical stage in the process, as we know from our contacts in the Research Councils that reviewers won’t even see an application if the proposal has not adhered to the guidance criteria.
Stage 1 of the process is where proposals are sifted by a group of staff who reject immediately any which do not meet the published eligibility criteria; either related to documentation requirements or where it does not meet the aims or criteria of the scheme. When we return your application to you before submitting in Je-S, it is to ensure your proposal gets through this team of sifters and makes it to Panel.
One element which we often find have been overlooked in applications is matching the Case for Support headings on the attachments, with those outlined in the guidance. The sifting process may reject your application for this reason and it is therefore important you make sure they match up. The headings have been developed based on feedback from peer reviewers and so following this structure will also put you in a favourable position with them. The other stages for most grants can be found in the diagram below.
What do reviewers looking for in proposals?
Quality & Importance of Research Proposed
- the proposal meets the specific aims of the scheme to which the applicant is applying
- the project is significant and important and the contribution it will enhance or develop creativity, insights, knowledge or understanding of the area in a national or international context
- the research questions, issues or problems that will be addressed are defined and their importance and appropriateness specified
- the research context and specification of why it is important that these particular questions, issues or problems are addressed is articulated
- the appropriateness, effectiveness and feasibility of the proposed research methods and/or approach is outlined
- the quality and importance of the applicant’s work to date is demonstrated
- the applicant is able to monitor the project and bring it to completion as demonstrated in the application
- the level and balance (in terms of time and seniority) of the proposed staffing on the project is appropriate and opportunities will be made available for less experienced researchers
- the other named participants have the appropriate experience and expertise to deliver the project.
- the lines of responsibility and accountability are clearly articulated.
- a realistic timetable, incorporating milestones is presented which will achieve the project’s aims and objectives within the proposed timescale
- the applicant has demonstrated that they understand the amount of work to be involved, allocated sufficient time and resources to achieving each aspect.
Value for Money
- the likely outcome of the research will represent value for money, and in particular the relationship between the funds that are sought and the significance and quality of the projected outcomes of the research
- the resources requested are reasonable in the context of the proposed research.
Outputs, Dissemination & Impact
- the dissemination methods are appropriate and effective
- the research process is documented or recorded in a way to enable dissemination of research outcomes to the widest possible audience
- the outputs and outcomes of the project will be highly valued and widely exploited, both in the research community and in wider contexts where they can make a difference
- plans to increase impact are appropriate and justified, given the nature of the proposed research
- sufficient attention has been given to who the beneficiaries of the research might be and appropriate ways to engage with them throughout the project.
- the research and its outcomes are disseminated to as wide an audience as possible, and where appropriate to engage in communication, dissemination and exploitation activities throughout the period of the project.
- the audiences to whom their research could be of interest are specified, and how they propose to engage with those audiences about their research.
How can I increase my chances of success?
Firstly, let your RKE Operations Officer know as soon as you want to apply for a scheme. They have many years’ experience of reading the eligibility criteria and guidance and can help you make sure you tick all of these boxes. They will also cost your proposal and get it approved by Legal and through the APF Quality Approval Process as well as submitting it via Je-S when the time comes.
Your proposal will automatically go through our internal peer review process (RPRS) and you will receive useful feedback on how to really strengthen this. We have a number of AHRC award holders and a reviewer on our database which will be a huge help for you. If you are a member of the Grants Academy you also have access to our successful applications to help you write yours as well as unlimited support from Dr Martin Pickard in creating a fantastic application.
If you haven’t won much funding before, then team up with more experienced academics in your field to make a submission that way.
Finally, the best piece of advice is to dedicate enough time to writing a great application. Many of the big schemes don’t have deadlines, and those which do have these dates announced usually quite far in advance so you have plenty of time to prepare. With so many areas to cover in your proposal and to do so better than your competition in other institutions, you really can’t write these applications in a week. A Research Grant is a very prestigious one to have on your CV and is worth dedicating the time and energy to get.
I have heard one of two grumbles over the years over our mandatory internal peer review for Research Council (RCUK) proposals and this can sometimes seem like an ‘additional hurdle’ to get through in making a submission. BU is not alone in having a mandatory review process for RCUK grants and we implemented this, as did others around the UK, on the back of demand management measures initiated by some of the Research Councils (such as the EPSRC who will ban repeatedly unsuccessful applicants from making further submissions for 12 months). To help ensure no one at BU is unable to bid for the calls they wish to, we want to offer this extra support to our academic community in helping them submit the best possible application that they can.
At BU we have seen success rates with RCUK funders increase due to the utilisation of the RPRS. Today Times Higher Education announced that due to initiatives taken by BU and other institutions in reviewing applications before submission, across the board RCUK success rates for funding have risen. The ESRC responsive mode scheme for instance has gone from a 14% success rate in 2011-12 to a 16% success rate in 2012-13.
Helping ensure fewer numbers of lowe quality bids are submitted to RCUK funders facilitates a reduction in administration costs, which can then be redistributed into funding calls. This is great news for the funders and for applicants and potential applicants.
We are reviewing how the internal peer review process works at BU to make it even more useful and ever less bureaucratic to help any RCUK applicants and indeed applicants for any funding bodies. More details on this will be placed on the blog soon!
Undertaking internal peer review (the RPRS) at BU became mandatory for all Research Council UK (RCUK) applications over a year ago in response to many funders demand management measures (which include banning applicants with two unsuccessful proposals within a time frame from applying to that funder for 12 months). The European Commission will also bring in demand management measures for all European Research Council grants under Horizon 2020.
But the RPRS is more than just a mandatory hoop for RCUK grants. In fact, most of the applications we receive are on a voluntary basis for a range of funders and schemes and those who have undergone it once, tend to use the scheme several times because of the value it adds. Indeed an analysis of recent RCUK submissions to the RPRS found that it has a 44% success rate when the proposals are sent off to the funder and with some finders such as the ESRC having a 15% success rate in 2012 – that is not a bad statistic!
The RPRS has been described by applicants as a ‘very valuable service’ giving a ‘positive’ experience. Not only are the comments helpful in further refining the bid, but the peer support helped eradicate the loneliness which often accompanies writing a proposal ‘[The RPRS] is a great support when writing bids – it can be a lonely business sometimes.
If you haven’t used the RPRS yet, why not give it a go for your next proposal?
This is a fantastic opportunity to be on a major funding review panel. Benefits of being a member include meeting potential collaborators, learning how the assessment process works and discovering what makes a great proposal. BU’s Dr Richard Shipway is a peer reviewer for the ESRC and has written an excellent blog post on the benefits of being a peer reviewer. You can read Richard’s post here.
The NIHR Public Health Research (PHR) Programme funds research that evaluates public health interventions, providing new knowledge on the benefits, costs, acceptability and wider impacts of non-NHS interventions intended to improve the health of the public and reduce inequalities in health, including interventions in education, the built environment, transport, social care.
Members of the Research Funding Board are senior academics with a broad range of skills and experience. The NIHR welcome applications from experts from a range of disciplines and fields, in particular:
• Impacts of the environment on health e.g. traffic/roads, housing, regeneration etc
• Statistics and trials methodology
• Older people
• Work place and health/employability
• Nutrition/obesity (adults and children)
• Mental health
• Systematic review/evidence synthesis
For further information on what the role involves and how to apply please see the PHR website. The deadline for applications is 1pm 15 November 2013.
BU is fully supportive of you becoming a reviewer, including helping with ensuring you have time to perform reviews for funding bodies.
As I’m sure you are all aware of, co-production and co-creation are key facets of Fusion. What better way of engaging in co-production and co-creation than through pursuing publications with students?
eBU is well placed to help academics co-produce and co-create outputs with students for peer review publications. eBU is encouraging academics to act as gatekeepers who, upon marking or seeing high quality student work, will approach students with the view to asking them if they wish to take this further and publish.
Putting your work ‘out there’ is daunting enough for anyone, let alone an early career scholar or student. Primarily as a publishing forum for internal peer review, eBU is a place where these types of outputs can be constructively critiqued in a safe internal environment. This provides students and/or early career scholars with some valuable experience of opening his/her work up to review internally, before doing so in the wider world.
eBU works on the basis of immediate publication (subject to an initial quality check) and open peer review. Once published on the internal site, we aim to upload reviews within 3 weeks. Authors are then encouraged to use the comments to aid publication in an external journal. Alternatively, authors also have the option of publishing on the external eBU site. Please note that only using eBU as a forum for internal peer review (with the intention to publish externally – which we encourage!) WILL NOT ENDANGER FURTHER PUBLICATION.
With the academic year only just underway it may not be the right time to identify high quality student output and enquire if they wish to make changes and reformat any output for publication. However, can I ask staff to make all students aware of eBU. It’s a win-win situation – engaging with eBU will boost your publication rate and give students something positive to put on their CV for their chosen career path.
To access eBU, when on campus simply type ‘ebu’ into your web browser address bar.
I don’t need to sell you the benefit of sitting on a funder review panel as I know you are already aware of what a fantastic experience this is in terms of meeting potential collaborators, learning how the assessment process works and discovering what makes a great proposal. BU’s Dr Richard Shipway is a peer reviewer for the ESRC and recently wrote an excellent blog post on the benefits of being a peer reviewer. You can read Richard’s post here.
You may recall that NERC recently announced initiatives to increase confidence in peer review; these include measures to increase the status and performance of the NERC College. As a result they are currently recruiting for members of their Peer Review College with the nomination deadline of 5 August 2013.
BU is fully supportive of you becoming a reviewer, including helping with ensuring you have time to perform reviews for funding bodies. If you want to take up this opportunity, please email me and I can inform you of the BU process for this.
As part of the Grants Academy programme we’re looking to set up a pool of external experts who can provide reviews of drafts of funding proposals for Academy members which will help develop bid writing skills and hopefully increase our chance of winning grants. Dr Martin Pickard (who facilitates the Grants Academy workshops) will provide some of this support, particularly for EC bids, however we are also setting up a pool of external reviewers with experience in different disciplines and of different funders who can be called upon to offer their advice.
I am interested to know whether any BU academics would be willing to nominate any of their external peers to potentially be invited to join the pool of external reviewers.
Nominations should be for senor academics who are experts in their field with significant experience of winning grant funding and/or significant experience of sitting on review panels. To avoid potential conflicts of interest it would be ideal if these people are recently retired or semi-retired, however this is not essential.
If you can think of anyone who would be suitable please could you email me their details.
On Monday, 2nd April we will be launching a brand new training programme – the BU Grants Academy – to sustain research and invest in early career researchers to boost BU’s collective research output.
Every day this week there will be blog posts focussing on different aspects of the Grants Academy. Today its The Overview. To find out more, please read on………
What is the Grants Academy?
It is a development programme for academic staff, with three distinct strands:
- Strand One: BU-wide development and training programme linked in 2012/13 to external grant writing support in the form of a contracted bid advisor.
- Strand Two: Bespoke intervention for key research groups and clusters (e.g., Research Centres, BU Research Themes, etc.) based on a bespoke version of Strand One.
- Strand Three: Post-Award support in the form of direct mentorship for new investigators with limited experience of research management and project delivery.
How will the scheme benefit acadmic staff?
Membership of the Grants Academy will enable academic staff to:
- improve their understanding of the research funding environment;
- increase the quality of their research funding proposals;
- unlock staff potential, confidence and motivation;
- enable staff to develop the skills required to design, write and structure a competitive, fundable research proposal; and
- to then manage awarded contracts, effectively leading to further funding.
Want to find out more?
If you would like to find out more please contact Caroline O’Kane
On the blog tomorrow, we’ll be telling you all about Strand One.