Disclosure of Conflict of Interest for External Reviewers and Panel Members

HRB Policy on Disclosure of Conflict of Interest for External Reviewers and Panel Members

This policy applied to all external reviewers and panel members engaged in the HRB’s funding processes.


1. The HRB requires an external reviewer or a panel member who has a conflict of interest to:

  • Disclose to the HRB the nature of his or her interest in advance of any review. External reviewers are asked to confirm no conflict of interest before they can access an application.  

  • Alert HRB staff at the earliest opportunity, where a conflict of interest exists or may exist for a panel member. They are also asked to sign a declaration, confirming no conflict of interest, at the panel meeting.

  • Refrain from influencing or seeking to influence a decision in relation to an application where a conflict exists

  • Take no part in any consideration of the application

  • Withdraw from the meeting for so long as the application is being discussed. 


2. A disqualifying conflict of interest exists if a reviewer or panel member:

  • Was involved in the preparation of the application  

  • Stands to benefit directly should the proposal be accepted or rejected

  • Is in some way related to the applicant, co-applicant, collaborator or sponsors (where applicable) at a personal or professional level  

  • Is a former supervisor of the applicant, co-applicant or sponsor (up to 5 years previously)

  • Is a collaborator of the applicant (up to 5 years previously). There may be exceptions in the case of joint publications from large collaborative teams/consortia where neither reviewer nor applicant, co-applicant or sponsor were the senior or corresponding author. 


3. A potential conflict of interest may exist in some cases that are not covered by the disqualifying conflict of interest rules indicated above. In particular reviewers with close links to industry should carefully consider any potential for conflict of interest/perceived commercial interest that may exist.  
4. A person will not be regarded as having a conflict of interest if the interest is so remote or insignificant that it cannot reasonably be regarded as likely to influence a person in considering, discussing or in voting on, any question relating to the application. 
5. If an external reviewer or panel member is in doubt as to whether a beneficial interest exists, he or she should consult with HRB staff. Typically, the decision if something constitutes a conflict of interest is made by a HRB Programme Manager.  The Chair of a panel will be briefed about any disclosed conflicts of interest of panel members ahead of the meeting .  
6. A separate policy exists for HRB staff. Conflicts of interest of members of the Board are dealt with in the HRB’s Governance Handbook.