How we assess applications

Eligibility and assessment criteria

These are set out in guidance notes provided for each funding scheme. Both differ significantly for different funding schemes. Eligibility criteria may refer for example to qualifications of the Lead Applicant, expertise required on the applicant team, the type of research, etc. Each submitted application undergoes an eligibility check.

Assessment criteria are tailored to each scheme and likely to include the quality of the application, the suitability of the team and the fit with the objectives of the scheme.

Review process

The process of reviewing applications for funding is broadly similar across schemes, although details vary. Conflict of interest rules governing reviewers and panel members are strictly adhered to.

For most funding schemes HRB staff aims to secure reviews from experts based outside of Ireland in the area of the proposed research. Depending on the scheme, the HRB may also seek input from other stakeholders. Reviewers are asked to highlight the strengths and the weaknesses of the application relative to the assessment criteria of the scheme, and to provide a score. The outcome of this process may be used to shortlist applications that are then submitted for further review to an international review panel. In other schemes the shortlisting process may be carried out by a panel or in a process involving both.

Separate review panels are established for each scheme. Whilst panel members are generally from outside Ireland, national experts may participate from time to time. Both panel members and expert reviewers are requested to consider unconscious bias in their decision making, and this is highlighted again to each Panel before they begin considering applications. 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. 

Depending on the scheme, the HRB may also seek input from other stakeholders. The HRB is increasingly involving patients and members of the public in our review processes, e.g. through our public review process or as PPI panel members. From 2020 the HRB plans to phase in the explict integration of PPI perspectives into funding decisions where appropriate to the scheme. Details of involvement of patients and members of the public in review processes are given in the guidance notes for each scheme.  

Funding decision

The panel makes its recommendations having considered all inputs to the process. If there are more fundable applications than the available budget for the scheme can support the panel will rank applications around the funding cut off. If it is not possible to differentiate between these applications based on the assessment criteria, the HRB gender policy includes gender balance in the leadership of the research team as a factor which may be used to rank proposals with the same scores.

The Board makes the final funding decision by approving the outcome of the review process. The Board will not alter the rank order agreed by the panel and will make awards from the top down of this ranked list. The HRB has an appeals policy  which sets out under which circumstances and through which process appeals can be made.

Where peer review reports have not been provided yet to applicants this will be done at the end of the process along with any other feedback that may be available from the panel meeting.