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Assessment and Peer Review

This page summarises the systems of assessment and peer review used by the British Academy for their research funding schemes and competitions.

• Research Funding

This page summarises the systems of assessment and peer review used by the British Academy for their research funding schemes and competitions.

 

Note on terms used

 

Referee

Individual nominated by the applicant who can comment knowledgeably on the proposal. In the case of the Small Research Grants the applicant is encouraged to discuss their proposal with the referee(s) before submitting an application. The applicant is responsible for ensuring that the statement from the referee reaches the Academy by the due date.

Assessor

Subject specialist, usually a Fellow of the Academy, who assesses the application in the light of reference submitted.

Selection Panel

Sub-Committee, usually composed of Fellows of the Academy, which reviews the comments and recommendations of assessors, and prioritises applications before submission to the final award committee.

Final Award Committee

Cross-disciplinary Committee, usually composed of Fellows of the Academy, which meets to decide on awards.

 

Assessment procedure for all schemes

The general procedure is that proposals are assessed by subject specialists in the light of references and any external evaluations. Assessors’ comments and recommendations are forwarded to a final award committee, which considers the applications and decides on awards to be made in the light of the quality of the competition and the budget available. There may be an interim stage where applications are reviewed by a selection panel.

 

Assessment criteria

For all Academy schemes, academic merit is the primary criterion. The following describes the full assessment criteria for each scheme.

Senior Research Fellowships

(a) Has the applicant already published work of intellectual distinction? (b) Is the proposed research project of outstanding academic merit?

Where the interpretation of material, written or oral, in a foreign language is crucial to the achievement of the research objective, assessors may take into account evidence of the investigator(s) competence in the relevant language(s).

Please note that academic merit is the primary basis on which assessment will be made. Only at the final stage of selection, with reference to applicants who are all felt to be of equally outstanding academic merit, will the subsequent considerations play a bigger role in the decision-making process.

(c) How pressing is the applicant’s need for the research leave applied for? (d) What is his/her entitlement to sabbatical leave, what are existing leave prospects and how do these affect the applicant’s need for an award?

 

Postdoctoral Fellowships

  • Is the proposed research project of outstanding academic merit?
  • Has the candidate demonstrated the capacity to make a significant contribution to research in the chosen field through his or her work and/or publications to date?
  • Does the candidate have the potential to go on after the award to a successful academic career?
  • In considering candidates who do not meet the normal requirements on eligibility, has a convincing case for exemption from the requirements been advanced?
  • Is the candidate proposing to work in a suitable host institution?
  • How strong is the case for support in comparative value for money terms?

Assessors may take into account evidence of language competence where the understanding of material in a foreign language is crucial to the achievement of the research objective.

Candidates should be aware that the selectors will ask to see suitable examples of written work from those candidates who have been particularly favoured in the first stage of the competition in order further to inform their judgements. Suitable written work will normally include either a short published article or an extract from a doctoral thesis. Candidates will be advised of the importance of the submission showing originality, displaying the skills that would be brought to bear if the Fellowship was awarded and illustrating the substance of their work, not giving a broad overview. Any special case made for endangered or emerging subject fields may be taken into account at the final stage of assessment.

 

Small Research Grants

Assessors will evaluate the proposal on the basis of its academic merit, taking into account

  • its originality
  • its relationship to, and the volume of, research already in the field
  • the scholarly importance of the research proposed
  • the suitability of the methodology
  • the feasibility of the research programme
  • the specificity of the scheme of research
  • the presentation of the application
  • intended outcomes.

Assessors will evaluate the ability of the investigator(s) to undertake the proposed research, taking into account

  • their track record in terms of publication
  • their academic age
  • stage of career.

The primary assessment of quality will be based on the specific research objective of the proposal, and whether the methodology and research programme outlined are likely to lead to successful achievement of the objective. The details of how the objective will be achieved - whether through research visits, use of research assistance, workshops, or any combination of eligible activities/costs - will be assessed only in relation to each individual application. No preference will be shown between individual or collaborative modes of research. There are no quotas for different types of application, and no comparisons will be made across applications on the grounds of their operational and financial specifications. For projects involving partners from other countries, assessors may take into account the availability of partner funding: in cases where partner funding is likely to be scarce, assessors may give priority to those projects which are likely to contribute to capacity building and lead to benefits for the wider scholarly community.

Assessors may take into account evidence of language competence where the understanding of material in a foreign language is crucial to the achievement of the research objective.

Comparative judgements about value for money may be taken into account at the final stage of assessment.

 

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