MRC boards and panels usually undertake a triage stage 5-6 weeks before the funding meeting. The purpose of triage is to:
- Ensure proposals discussed at the funding meeting are of scientific and strategic interest to the board or panel
- Ensure the number of proposals assessed at each meeting is manageable and conducive to effective discussions
- Identify, at an early stage, those proposals that are uncompetitive and therefore unlikely to be awarded funding. Rejection at the triage stage is considered beneficial for applicants unlikely to be successful as it enables them to take account of external peer reviewer comments at an earlier stage.
Triage is conducted by seeking board or panel members’ critical evaluation of each funding proposal aided by the comments provided by external peer reviewers. Should expertise be required from another field, guest introducers are invited to contribute. These evaluations are then discussed at a triage meeting, where the final ‘triage in’ (proposal proceeds to funding meeting) or ‘triage out’ (proposal rejected) decisions are taken.
Board and panel members consider each proposal based upon its quality, impact and productivity, as detailed in the ‘Scoring matrix for board and panel meetings’. If the proposal has the potential to be fundable and any concerns can be addressed in the PI response, members recommend: ‘triage in’ and provide comments to justify this. If the proposal does not have the potential to achieve a fundable score at the funding meeting or presents concerns which cannot be addressed at the PI response, members recommend: ‘triage out’ and again provide justification.
Board and panel members are required to comment on information relating to the justification of methods, statistical analyses and experimental design aspects of the proposal. Members note if suitable and sufficiently detailed information is provided to convince the board or panel that the proposed experiments will be carried out appropriately to produce robust and reproducible research.
4.1 Unconscious bias:
Board and panel members must maintain objectivity in their assessment and be aware of the potential for unconscious bias and the impact this may have on review.
All board and panel members are encouraged to attend MRC-led unconscious bias workshops specifically designed to:
- Explore the way in which unconscious biases can impact funding decision making
- Learn to identify the types of bias that impact peer review
- Undertake techniques to help members protect funding decision making from bias
- Discuss the implications of this for the different stakeholders involved in funding
4.2 Responsible use of metrics
Reviewers should not use journal-based metrics, such as Journal Impact Factors, as a surrogate measure of the quality of individual research articles, to assess an individual scientist’s contributions. This is in line with our commitment to the San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment.
4.3 Career breaks and flexible working:
The assessment of MRC proposals frequently involves an appraisal of the applicant’s track record. In making this appraisal, members consider time spent outside the active research environment, whether through career breaks or flexible working.
MRC Head Office communicate triage decisions within 10 working days of the triage meeting.
All applicants receive peer review comments following the triage meeting. Applicants may also receive additional feedback from the triage panel. In most cases (excluding DPFS and some managed mode calls), applicants who have passed the triage stage have the opportunity to respond to all comments either ahead of or at the funding meeting.