Complaints procedure

We are committed to working in an open and accountable way to provide a high quality, responsive and accessible service. Despite our commitment, we recognise that things can sometimes go wrong.

If you are dissatisfied in any way with our performance we wish to know about it. We aim to respond positively and courteously to any complaints, and by putting right our mistakes, improve our processes.

This procedure is for all complaints to the EPSRC. Complaints fall into the following categories:

Complaints about funding decisions based on disagreement about scientific judgments are excluded from the complaints process as are any matters that are the subject of litigation or legal proceedings.

General complaints about EPSRC

Complaints should be concerned with the manner in which a decision has been made or action taken, rather than objections to the merits of a decision or action. They might relate to the following criteria:

  • Omission - something we said we would do has not happened.
  • Lack of quality - an element of our processes has not been done well, took too long, was not carried out consistently, displayed bias, misleading guidance or unclear procedures.
  • Inappropriate or discourteous conduct by our staff or those assisting us in our peer review processes (including a failure to declare a personal interest).

Complaints about the peer review process

We take great care in obtaining pertinent scientific advice and endeavour to obtain comments from reviewers who are well placed to offer informed views. The peer review panels we appoint make judgments on the relative merits of research proposals, informed by the reviewers' comments and any feedback from investigators relating to factual inaccuracies and reviewer questions.

We appreciate that there may be occasions when our processes may not reach our normal standards and will investigate any complaints positively and courteously and, by putting right our mistakes, improve our processes.

We will consider complaints concerning the effectiveness and propriety of the decision-making process, but this is not an opportunity to dispute valid scientific advice. We are also unable to consider any matters that are the subject of litigation or legal proceedings.

Principles

The following general principles are applicable for complaints about the peer review process and will be reflected in any investigation:

  • Fairness - similar research proposals are assessed in a similar way, particularly when in competition with each other.
  • Objectivity - EPSRC officials and peer reviewers should act without personal interest or bias, in accordance with the Nolan principles of public service life (selflessness, integrity, objectivity, accountability, openness, honesty and leadership).
  • Competence - published policies and procedures are adhered to.

Making a complaint

You should initially raise your concern with the person dealing with your application or enquiry. A simple misunderstanding may have arisen which can be easily resolved.

However, if this is not possible, you can ask for the issue to be considered as an official complaint by making your complaint in writing, by letter or email. It would be helpful if you could define the cause of your dissatisfaction in terms of the above principles and criteria.

If you wish to make a complaint please write to the Joint Information Services Unit, EPSRC, Polaris House, North Star Avenue, Swindon, SN2 1ET or via email to The Professional Support Unit.

What happens next?

You will receive an acknowledgement within three working days and a written response within ten working days. If this is not possible, you will be given an explanation of the reasons for the delay and a timescale by which you will receive a full reply. At all stages your complaint will be dealt with in strict confidence.

In considering the complaint, the senior officer will:

  • Gather all the relevant information.
  • Agree the issues and facts of the case with the complainant.
  • Analyse the complaint in the context of stated procedures and, if applicable, published service standards.
  • Determine whether the complaint is valid.
  • Inform the complainant of the outcome and, if applicable, the remedial action to be taken which may include:
    • Peer Review - If a complaint is upheld, we will offer to re-assess the proposal or application, ensuring that any failings in process are corrected.

Following the review of your complaint, if you remain dissatisfied, you can ask for your complaint to be referred to a director. The director, who will not be responsible for the work area concerned, will undertake a fresh review. As part of this escalation process, we will normally require a parallel escalation on your part, for example, the involvement of your pro-vice chancellor for research or a company director.

Still not satisfied?

If you have gone through each stage of our complaints procedure and are still not satisfied, you have the right to ask your Member of Parliament to refer the matter to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration (the Parliamentary Ombudsman). More information is available from the Parliamentary Ombudsman.

Comments on policy and procedures

We welcome and actively seek feedback on our policies and procedures. Such comments will not be regarded formally as complaints. Any observations or views should be sent to the relevant group leader, director or to our complaints officer.

Compliments

We expect our staff to be courteous and to seek to provide an excellent service, but, if you feel you have had exceptional service, we will be delighted to hear from you. We will ensure that your compliment is passed on the member of staff or team concerned.

Record-keeping and data protection

As a public body, have a duty to register complaints and operate effective procedures for their tracking. This requires us to keep information concerning complaints and to evaluate our response in order to learn from our mistakes.

Information about complaints will be kept in our electronic data systems, but will be restricted to members of staff dealing with the complaint and our professional advisors. We adhere to the whistle-blowers' code and any such information submitted in accordance with this code will be appropriately protected.

Learning lessons

We recognise that our procedures may have unintended consequences, and that EPSRC would benefit from learning lessons from any complaints. We will ensure that our process improvement groups consider any changes in procedure that might arise from substantiated complaints.

In addition, we maintain a record of the outcomes of complaints (with due recognition of the need to respect the privacy of complainants) and any consequent changes in process.