1. Can I download a copy of the peer review form?
  2. This isn't really my area of expertise, are you sure you've got the right person?
  3. I've never done this before, how long do my comments have to be?
  4. I can't provide a response by the deadline, can I have an extension?
  5. Will my review remain confidential?
  6. I think that there is a conflict of interest, should I really comment on this proposal?
  7. How did you come to select me as a peer reviewer?
  8. I can't provide a review but my colleague might be able to - can I pass the application on to them?
  9. Will I be paid to carry out this review?

1. Can I download a copy of the peer review form?

ESRC uses the Joint Electronic Submission (Je-S) to support our peer review process. You will need to log in to your Je-S account to review a proposal.

If you have been approached to rapporteur a grant then comment forms are available to download from the website, the details for which will be with your invitation.

2. This isn't really my area of expertise, are you sure you've got the right person?

When we select peer reviewers, we try to find individuals who can comment on a range of issues relevant to the proposal, including scientific merit, research design, the particular methodology proposed and the proposed data analysis. It may be that your interests match a very specific aspect of the proposal or final report you have been sent. If you are in any doubt, please contact the ESRC staff member who sent you the application or documentation.

3. I've never done this before, how long do my comments have to be?

There is no set length for peer review comments – you may be able to summarise your views concisely, or you may wish to comment on a number of specific aspects of the proposal or final report in detail. Relatively short comments that are clearly stated, well justified and constructive will be more useful to any committee or panel (as well as applicants) than rambling or unfocused ones. The average review is between one and two pages in length. 

4. I can't provide a response by the deadline, can I have an extension?

A timely response from all peer reviewers is crucial. If insufficient replies are received by the due date, we have to approach additional peer reviewers. For applications, the delay could mean that an application misses the cut-off date for the next Grants Delivery Group meeting, adding at least four months to the decision process. However, we do realise that everyone we approach is already very busy.

It is likely therefore that we will try to accommodate the wishes of reviewers and issue extensions to deadlines wherever possible. If you feel that you would like to comment, but cannot meet the requested deadline, please contact RCUK using the details in your invitation to see if an extended deadline is feasible.

5. Will my review remain confidential?

Almost all of our peer review forms have two sections to them - a confidential section and a section for comments which will be fed back to the applicant. Usually, the whole form will be forwarded to the panel who will make a recommendation on the proposal.

However, only the comments for feedback section will be sent back, anonymously, to the applicant.  If you would prefer your whole review to remain confidential (ie no part of it to be fed back to the applicant or to other referees), then please let the RCUK know and they will make sure this happens.

6. I think that there is a conflict of interest, should I really comment on this proposal?

If you feel you may have a potential conflict of interest, please note this in the confidential section of the reply form or seek advice from the relevant UKSBS contact. For example, if you are reviewing an application and you plan to submit your own application to the same grants scheme in the near future, you should state this.

We accept that it is likely that academics who work in the same field may know each other, and this does not therefore bar you from commenting on a proposal. Most of our peer review forms contain a confidential section on 'knowledge of applicant', where this information can be declared.

However, if your knowledge of or relationship with the applicant is such that you feel it would be difficult to be objective when commenting on the proposal, then please contact RCUK. You should state that you would rather not comment on this occasion, and explain the reasons why. We can make a note of this for future reference if necessary.

7. How did you come to select me as a peer reviewer?

The ESRC now has a peer review college from which our peer reviewers are selected. However we also seek peer reviews from outside the college membership where appropriate. Reviewers are selected by ESRC case officers who have a background in a wide variety of social science areas.

8. I can't provide a review but my colleague might be able to - can I pass the application/report on to them? 

This type of suggestion is very useful to us. Therefore please send the names and contact details of any potential reviewers to the ESRC contact named in your invitation letter. However, since applications and reports must be treated confidentially, please do not pass these documents on to colleagues. Please also see how to decline to review using the Je-S system.

9. Will I be paid to carry out this review?

Unfortunately, except in very exceptional circumstances, we are unable to pay reviewers.