This policy sets out the process for appealing funding decisions made by the HRB. It is important to note that disagreement with peer reviewers or panel members’ comments are not grounds for an appeal. However, applicants may appeal if they consider that the process for reviewing their application was not adhered to or that it was not conducted fairly.
How funding decisions are made
For most awards, the HRB uses a process of competition and international peer review to decide which grant applications to fund. Guidelines (including eligibility and scoring criteria) are provided as a matter of course when the call for applications is issued and for most grant schemes, applicants apply using the HRB’s online system. The criteria used for funding an application vary but are likely to include the quality of the proposal, the suitability of the team, its relevance to the HRB’s strategy and the budget available.
The process of reviewing applications for funding is broadly similar for all schemes, although details vary. After an eligibility check, HRB staff typically aim to secure three or more international reviews from experts in the area of the proposed research. Depending on the scheme, the HRB may also seek input from other stakeholders who may be asked to comment on the strategic relevance of the proposal or the extent to which it is meeting the criteria of the call. Reviewers are asked to highlight the strengths and the weaknesses of the application under each criterion applicable to the scheme, and to provide an overall summary and a final score. The outcome of this process may be used to shortlist applications that are then submitted for further review to an international review panel.
Separate review panels are established for each scheme and whilst members are generally drawn from outside Ireland, national experts may participate from time to time. Conflict of interest rules governing panel members are published on the HRB’s website and strictly adhered to. When evaluating proposals, panels use the expert peer review reports as an input to their deliberations; applicants typically have an opportunity to respond to the reviewers’ comments and the applicant’s response is also provided to the panel. Where the selection process includes an interview, applicants have an opportunity at that point to respond to any issues raised by reviewers.
A similar process is followed for interim or end of term reviews of active awards.
Having considered all inputs to the process, the panel makes its recommendations and the final funding decision is made by the Board. At the end of the process, peer review reports are provided to all applicants as a matter of routine along with any other feedback that may be available from the panel meeting.
Grounds for appeal
The aim of the HRB’s appeals procedure is to ensure that the grant review process was conducted fairly. The Board bases its funding decision on the independent scientific judgement of a panel and this decision is not open to appeal. However, applicants may appeal if they consider that the process was not adhered to or that it was not conducted fairly.
The appeal procedure at the HRB has three stages:
1. Contact with relevant Programme Manager or Head of Pre-Award
Applicants whose proposals have been turned down for funding, and who are concerned about any aspect of the process, are encouraged in the first instance to talk to the relevant Programme Manager or Head of Pre-Award in the HRB, who may be able to provide additional information.
2. Review of the appeal by the Director of Research Strategy and Funding
If the applicant is not satisfied with the response received from the Programme Manager or Head of Pre-Award, s/he should submit a written request for a review to the Director of Research Strategy and Funding. The request should state clearly the grounds for the appeal and must be endorsed by the Host Institution. The Director will review the steps taken in the review process and issue a report within 30 days. The report will be sent to the applicant and copied to the Research Office of the Host Institution.
3. Further review by the CEO
If still not satisfied, the Host Institution may request a further review by the CEO of the HRB. The request must be in writing and must be signed by the President/Provost/Chief Executive Officer of the Host Institution and by the applicant. The request should explain why the institution is not satisfied with the review of the process conducted by the Director. The CEO will review this request and provide a written response to the Host Institution within 30 days. A third party expert may be invited to examine the case and make a recommendation, at the discretion of the CEO.
The decision made by the CEO is final.
The HRB will keep this policy under review and may make changes from time to time. Policy updates will be posted on the HRB website.