Panel meeting protocols

EPSRC provides guidance to all panel members on their role as a panel member and the panel meeting process. These guidance documents should be reviewed by all panel members ahead of a panel meeting. Please also refer to the Panel Guidance relevant to your meeting.

1. Code of Practice

1.1 EPSRC has adopted a code of practice for all those who assist in the work of the Council which embraces the "Seven Principles of Public Life" drawn up by the Nolan Committee and endorsed by Parliament. These Principles are described in more detail on the EPSRC web site and refer to selflessness, integrity, objectivity, accountability, openness, honesty and leadership. The impact of this code is described in more detail below.

2. Conflicts of Interest

2.1 An important aspect of this code is the avoidance of any conflicts between personal interests and the interests of EPSRC. In the context of peer review for EPSRC a conflict of interest might arise, for example, if a meeting member has, or has had, a close working or personal relationship with any individual or organisation (or any collaborating company or body) connected with a particular proposal. Such interests may be indirect and relate to immediate family members or any other persons living in the same household. The acid test is whether a member of the public, knowing the facts of the situation, might reasonably think the reviewer’s judgement could be influenced by the possibility of private or commercial gain.

2.2 Any meeting member who thinks they might be perceived as having a conflict of interest with any proposal being considered by the meeting should declare this at the start of the meeting. They should also inform the office in advance of the meeting if they have been asked to lead the discussion on any such item. Where appropriate, members will be expected to leave the room during consideration of these items and their exclusion from the discussion will be recorded and may be published in the web record of the outcome of the meeting. Please contact the office if you feel that you need further advice about this matter.

3. Handling Approaches from Researchers

3.1 EPSRC operates an open peer review process, while at the same time preserving reviewer anonymity. EPSRC expects all parties to respect the roles of all involved in the peer review process. Reviewers and meeting members are asked to treat proposals in confidence.

3.2 EPSRC will not disclose to researchers who reviewed their proposal. It is therefore unacceptable for researchers to approach individuals who they think might have been involved in the consideration of their proposal. If such a situation does occur, EPSRC advises the reviewer or meeting member not to enter into a debate about whether or not they reviewed a proposal, but to inform EPSRC so that an appropriate form of action can be taken.

4. Protection of Ideas and Scientific Fraud

4.1 The integrity of peer review is dependent on the selflessness of those involved. All papers relating to the consideration of proposals must be treated as strictly confidential and seen for the purpose of the meeting only. After the meeting, all documentation - in whatever form - should either be returned to EPSRC or destroyed. Meeting members must not take advantage of any information obtained as a result of their role, must not contact applicants directly, and should refer any questions to the EPSRC.

4.2 Progress in scientific and engineering research depends on honesty in the presentation of genuine results. A Good Practice Guide offering further advice is available on the EPSRC website.

Any questions about this issue arising from the review of proposals should be raised with the Office.

5. Equal Opportunities

5.1 EPSRC is committed to equal opportunities in all its activities. Meeting members should ensure that they avoid any bias in the assessment of proposals due to gender, disability, racial or ethnic origin, sexual orientation, or religious belief. Comments during meeting discussion must not contravene this policy.

6. Meeting Questionnaire

6.1 After the meeting, meeting members will be asked to complete a brief questionnaire designed to enable evaluation of the effectiveness of the peer review mechanisms operated by EPSRC. Access to this questionnaire is included in the panel papers.