BBSRC institute career path fellowships – guidance on assessment of proposals
BBSRC Institute Career Path fellowships are intended to enable successful candidates to embark upon a period of independent research or scholarship at an important stage in their research career. The fellowships are designed to support innovative early-career scientists in strategically important areas targeted by BBSRC. The scheme has been introduced to enhance the quality of science in BBSRC sponsored Institutes in a targeted way, and the fellowship is based on the existing BBSRC David Phillips fellowship. For 2008/09, proposals have been invited from early-career researchers wishing to be based at the Institute of Food Research (IFR) or Rothamsted Research (RRes). The applicant’s research programme must fit with the Institute’s Strategic Plan and be linked to an Institute Strategic Programme.
BBSRC Institute Career Path fellowships are intended to enable successful candidates to embark upon a period of independent research and scholarship at an important stage in their research career. The fellowships are designed to provide a career enhancement to support scientists in the initial stages of their career in areas of strategic importance for BBSRC sponsored Institutes, and there is therefore a strong emphasis on the scientific potential of the candidates. In making these awards, BBSRC will be seeking to identify scientists who can be expected in the future to make a significant contribution to the advancement of science in the institute. In addition the proposed scientific programme should be sound, and of a novelty and timeliness that will enhance the quality of the Institute’s science in the area being targeted by the fellowship. Proposals should be assessed against the following criteria: (i) Candidate: • • • Research achievements to date; Number and quality of publications; Personal achievements eg. prizes, awards, honours, presentations, student supervision, collaborations etc.
Proposed Research Programme: • Strategic relevance; the proposed research should be consistent with the BBSRC's mission to promote and support high quality basic, strategic and applied research relating to the understanding and exploitation of biological systems and biotechnology. Proposals should be for projects within the strategically important science areas being targeted in the call.
Scientific quality of the proposed research; its strengths, weaknesses and feasibility. Proposals should not be over ambitious or of a complexity that would not allow researchers to make progress or to develop new ideas. Proposals should explain clearly the expected programme of work with a sensible timetable, objectives and clear milestones, and well thought through experiments. Scientific excellence will be paramount, although allowance may be made for less experienced researchers in the presentation of their proposal. Enhancement of institute science; evidence that the proposal is based on full and careful consideration to the choice of host institute, with a clear fit between the proposed project and the scientific strategy of the institute. Scientific independence; applicants must be able to demonstrate if awarded a fellowship that they will be genuinely working independently of senior colleagues with whom they might previously have collaborated or for whom they might have worked in a supporting role. There should be indications within the research programme that this will be the case. Short-listed applicants will be tested on this at interview.
Research grants (including fellowships) now awarded by the UK Research Councils reflect the introduction in universities of full economic costing (fEC) at project level. The main difference for peer reviewers is that a larger range of types of costs will be seen on grant proposals. Further information about fEC and guidelines for peer reviewers is available from http://www.pparc.ac.uk/jes/DSR_PeerReviewguidancev1.0.pdf Referees may wish to comment on the extent to which the resources requested, relative to the anticipated scientific gains, represent an attractive investment of BBSRC funds. Resources under Directly Incurred, Directly Allocated (except estates costs) and Exceptions can be assessed for their necessity and appropriateness. Estates and Indirect costs must not be considered, and the overall costs of the grant should not normally affect your assessment of its quality.
Value of award
As part of the proposal for a BBSRC Institute Career Path fellowship, applicants may seek a research support grant (in line with BBSRC Research Grants) over the fiveyear period of the fellowship, to support the costs of the research that is to be undertaken.
The terms and conditions applying to the research support grant are those applying to BBSRC research grants. Details can be found at www.bbsrc.ac.uk/funding/apply/grants_guide.pdf
Scoring of applicants
Based on the guidance given above, and against the definitions at Annex 1, candidates should be assigned a score on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 as the highest score, representing a top quality candidate. While the scale should be used in full, assessors are asked to bear in mind that with only ten awards available, scores of 4 and 5 should be reserved for candidates of the highest quality.
Confidentiality (also refer to Annex 2)
BBSRC will treat referees’ reports as confidential. On occasions, BBSRC may use referees’ reports to provide candidates with a summary of the outcome of their proposals. In such cases the identity of the referees will remain confidential.
Guidance to referees on grading candidates and their science
(i) Candidate Score: Alpha 5.0 4.5 4.0 Outstanding: candidates who are of the highest all round standard, and who have already indicated that they are capable of working independently. Good: candidates with strong positive qualities but who do not as yet exhibit outstanding potential as an independent researcher. Not suitable: candidates who do not reach the required standard in relation to either past contributions or future potential.
3.5 3.0 2.5 2.0 1.5 1.0
Proposed research programme Score: Alpha 5.0 4.5 4.0 Outstanding: high quality science, which is of high scientific merit, novel, timely and likely to make a contribution to the understanding of the subject. Good: worthy science, but not of a level to have a significant impact on the understanding of the subject. Poor: flawed science, or science which lacks novelty, making only a marginal contribution to our understanding of the subject area or has serious technical deficiencies.
3.5 3.0 2.5 2.0 1.5 1.0
BBSRC fellowship proposals and confidentiality – guidance to referees
Background This guidance has been produced as a response to many queries from the academic community supported by BBSRC on what arrangements are in place to protect the confidentiality of research grant and fellowship proposals etc. Concerns stem from two different angles, firstly the protection of novel research ideas and secondly the fear that possible patent protection could be harmed by inadvertent premature disclosure. This guidance note aims to highlight a number of simple steps that referees can take in order to protect both themselves and their fellow scientists. What is confidential information? Any information that is not already publicly available can be classified as confidential. Anyone who receives information knowing it to be confidential is legally bound to its provider, not because they have signed any confidentiality agreements, but simply because they received it knowing it to be confidential. This places a burden of responsibility on recipients which they cannot avoid. For the purposes of referees all fellowship proposals and any associated documents are classified by BBSRC as confidential and due care must be taken to protect their contents. Why do we need to maintain confidentiality? There are two main reasons for protecting fellowship proposals. Both stem from the fact that the proposals contain potential intellectual property or ideas that belong to the applicant. Firstly, in fellowship proposals scientists are disclosing their future research plans which will contain innovative ideas which, while not necessarily patentable, are the result of their ongoing research and they have a reasonable expectation that they can control the method that this is presented to the world. Secondly, premature disclosure can badly preclude patent rights. In the UK any publication, often even at a very trivial level, can be held as evidence that the ideas are not new and therefore not protectable. What is in the public domain can be interpreted very broadly and our general advice to applicants is not to disclose information to anyone if a patent proposal is likely. What should I do? There are a few simple measures you can take: • • • • Remember that the proposal is confidential and treat it as such. If you need to show it to a colleague to help with your assessment, then give them a copy of this guide and ensure that they realise you are seeking their views in confidence. If you do consult another colleague, let BBSRC know when you send in your assessment. When you have completed your assessment, do not keep the proposal where it may be seen by other people. Ideally it should be returned with your assessment to BBSRC.