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External peer review

1. External peer review process
2. Assessment criteria and scoring
3. Next steps

1. External peer review process 

The MRC Programme Managers work closely with “Expert External Referee Selectors” (EERS) to select independent expert reviewers to review most of our grant and fellowship proposals. This excludes Industrial CASE studentships and some managed mode calls, which are reviewed by a panel of experts. EERS are qualified scientists with experience of nationally/internationally competitive research relevant to the MRC remit. If you are interested in becoming an EERS please contact us.

A minimum of three reviews are sought for each proposal, increasing to four and five reviews for four and five year grants respectively.

A balance of expert reviewer opinions is sought to cover the different aspects of the proposal, which typically relate to:

  • Scientific understanding and rationale
  • Technical aspects of the proposal
  • Medical need and relevance
  • Deliverability/project plan

An appropriate balance of national and international reviewers is sought, as is a gender diversity balance.

Reviewers are expected to have established expertise based on peer recognition and publication record, a strong track record in the research area and appropriate seniority to review the proposal.

Reviewers should not have a conflict of interest with the proposal. If a conflict of interest is declared that influences or is seen to influence the outcome, the review will not be used in the assessment process.

2. Assessment criteria and scoring 

The assessment of all research proposals is based on three core criteria:

  1. Importance: how important are the questions, or gaps in knowledge, that are being addressed?
  2. Scientific potential: what are the prospects for good scientific progress?
  3. Resources requested: are the funds requested essential for the work and does the importance and scientific potential justify funding on the scale requested.

Further detailed criteria for the different schemes we operate can be found at Assessment Criteria

Our scoring system allows peer reviewers to provide an overall score for a research proposal, taking into account all the assessment criteria. The scoring matrix contains descriptions of what we expect of proposals in each scoring band.

3. Next steps 

External peer review comments inform decisions about whether proposals advance to the funding meeting. More information about the triage process is available.