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Observer opportunities at HRB funding application panel meetings? You decide.

The HRB is considering whether to allow researchers to sit in as observers at panel meetings that adjudicate on grant applications.

Two green chairs

We have opened an online survey to canvass your opinion.

International peer review is the foundation of the HRB’s decision making process for grant funding. Given the small size of the country and the potential for actual and / or perceived conflicts of interest, the HRB has used international panel members for many years now. As a result, Irish researchers are not as familiar with HRB application processes as they used to be.

To address this, the HRB is considering the option to allow researchers to become observers at panel meetings. We hope that this will increase awareness of and confidence in HRB processes, panel dynamics and panel management.

Clear boundaries will need to be established around this if it does happen. For instance:

The observer:

  • Cannot have an application for review by this panel as lead applicant, co-applicant, or collaborator.
  • Must declare any conflicts of interest with applications under discussion based on the normal HRB conflict of interest rules and must leave the room during the discussion of those applications.  
  • Must agree to remain silent throughout the panel discussion.  
  • Will not get access to meeting documents apart from the agenda (no applications or reviews).
  • Must sign a confidentiality agreement. This includes agreeing not to share direct feedback with individual applicants.

We also need to make this workable from the HRB perspective, so we propose these parameters:

  • Being an observer is an opportunity, not a right.
  • There is a limit of up to two observers per panel meeting. There may be circumstances where it is not practical or not prudent to have observers present, and offering spaces is at the discretion of the HRB.
  • First preference will be given to early phase researchers and coordinators of large awards (including infrastructures).
  • Preference will be given to those who have not attended a selection panel meeting before.
  • Where a panel meeting is still over-subscribed taking into account the preferences outlined, a randomised method will be used to select observers.  
  • The HRB may revise procedures to minimise the administrative burden arising from this opportunity.
  • The HRB will review the situation after 12 months and decide if this will be an ongoing practice.

The survey (five questions) is available at

The survey will close 1.00 pm 10 June 2019.

When the survey closes we will analyse the results and make a decision about whether to open panels to observers within four to six weeks. If we decide to progress with this idea, we will communicate through our ezine, website, twitter and an email to active Principal Investigators. We will have a dedicated process by which people can apply and this will be communicated through these channels.