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Frequently asked questions about the peer review process

How long will it take to process my proposal?

EPSRC receives and processes several thousand grant proposals each year. We aim to give your proposal fair and considered treatment, balancing factors such as the time taken to make a funding decision with the number of reviewers from whom we receive expert comment. For proposals under our control, you should hear the outcome within 26 weeks. In most cases, you will hear sooner: we aim to make a funding decision on at least 80 per cent of proposals within 20 weeks of receipt.

What happens to my proposal when I submit it?

The format of your proposal will firstly be checked to see if it meets the current guidelines and that both you and your institution are eligible to apply to us for funding. We will then choose where within EPSRC's theme your proposal should be considered. There are no rigid boundaries between disciplines or subjects and joint funding between themes is encouraged.

How does EPSRC choose its reviewers?

EPSRC guarantees that its decision-making process relies on independent, expert comment. Your proposal will be sent to at least three reviewers chosen for their expertise. These reviewers will include members of the EPSRC college (a body of credible reviewers, nominated and renewed by the research community itself) and at least one of those you have nominated.

How long does it take for reviewers to reply?

Reviewers are given three weeks to respond to our request. Although many reviewers are able to respond within three weeks, others may ask for more time to complete the assessment. Some may be unable to respond due to other commitments, in which case we then need to approach other reviewers. We make considerable efforts to make sure that responses are received promptly, although holiday periods and other acknowledged commitments in universities can make it difficult to receive replies on time.

What does EPSRC do with the reviewers' comments?

Once we have received comments from a sufficient number of reviewers (usually at least three), we will make a decision, based solely on the reviewers' comments, whether a proposal should be funded at this stage, be referred to a prioritisation panel meeting or be rejected. The majority of proposals are considered by prioritisation panel meetings. In this case copies of the reviewers' comments will be available to you (via the Je-S system) before the panel meeting to give you the chance to comment on any factual inaccuracies that they contain. The Pre-Award tracker available through your Je-S account will give you details of when the comments are likely to be sent to you. We ask you to respond, using two sides of A4, within five working days. We will try to make all reviewers' comments available for your response.

What happens if an insufficient number of reviewers' comments are received?

Reviewers are chased promptly for their comments. Occasionally we need to approach additional reviewers. This could be because fewer reviews were received than required or because the reviews themselves contain insufficient detail or cover only parts of the proposal. It would not be acceptable for us to ask a prioritisation panel meeting to attempt to rank a proposal based on an insufficient number of expert comments. Under these circumstances, the decision-making process may be delayed.

How does EPSRC choose its panel members?

Panel members, usually chosen from the college, are selected for their expertise in a general field and will come from both universities and industry. The panel meeting membership is determined by the types of proposals being considered at the meeting.

How does EPSRC make sure that its panel meetings are run in a fair and unbiased way?

A chair, an academic or industrialist with experience of EPSRC prioritisation panel meetings, is appointed to lead the panel's work, and the meeting itself will be overseen by an EPSRC official. The work of the panel is covered by the code of practice adopted by EPSRC to embrace the Seven Principles of Public Life. Panel members are reminded to declare all conflicts of interest, and anything likely to be perceived as a conflict of interest, and are asked to leave the room while any proposals affected by this are considered. Panel members and reviewers accept an obligation of confidentiality in their treatment of proposals and an obligation to respect the original ideas which research colleagues have disclosed.

How soon after the meeting will I know the outcome of my application?

Although you may know the date of the panel meeting at which your proposal was considered, the availability of funds may not be known for a week or so following the meeting itself. You will receive confirmation by letter as soon as a decision has been made. We try to do this within the two weeks following the panel meeting. Please wait two weeks before contacting the UK Shared Business Services Ltd (UK SBS) for a decision.

What feedback will I be given following the decision?

We process a large number of proposals each year and given that the role of the prioritisation panel is simply to rank a proposal on the basis of the reviewers' comments which you will have already seen, it is not usual practice for us to provide any further feedback at this stage unless there are specific points that the panel has requested are passed to you.

What will happen if my proposal is funded?

Should your proposal be funded, an offer letter pack will be sent to you via your organisation's administration office (for example, registrar). This pack will include a starting certificate. Once you are in a position to start the project, your finance office will submit the starting certificate to us as confirmation that the university wishes the grant to commence.

Who can I contact for more information?

You can get information about the progress of your proposal from the Je-S Pre-Award Tracker. Your institution's administration or finance office may also be able to help with any further queries. However, if you require any further information at any time, please the UK SBS directly by telephone or email.