Reviewer guidance for fellowships PDF document _62KB_ - GUIDANCE

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Reviewer guidance for fellowships PDF document _62KB_ - GUIDANCE Powered By Docstoc
					                              GUIDANCE FOR REVIEWERS OF RESPONSIVE MODE
                              FELLOWSHIP APPLICATIONS


NERC Research Fellowships

A limited number of NERC Research Fellowships are offered annually to provide
opportunities for outstanding environmental scientists to devote their time to research
careers and to produce work of international importance. There are two fellowship
levels: postdoctoral and advanced, corresponding approximately to a different stage in a
typical research career. Both types of proposal are considered together and there are
no quotas for funding particular types of awards. The different levels are summarised
below:

Postdoctoral Research Fellowships are three year early career development awards,
to provide further postdoctoral experience and to support outstanding environmental
scientists as they become independent investigators. Up to one year can be spent at a
collaborative institution in the UK or overseas. Applications for Postdoctoral Research
Fellowships will be accepted from PhD students, but awards may not start until NERC
has received written confirmation of the outcome of the applicant's PhD viva. Although
some post-PhD experience can be an advantage, NERC wishes to support the best
candidates based on potential, not just track record.

Advanced Research Fellowships are five year awards to enable outstanding early/mid
career researchers to develop into team leaders of international standing. Up to two
years can be spent at a collaborative institution in the UK or overseas. Candidates for
Advanced Fellowships must have had at least two years research experience at
postdoctoral level, not necessarily in the UK, at the time of application. They must also
have proved their ability as independent research workers and show potential as team
leaders.

Fellowship Scheme Assessment Criteria

In assessing Fellowship applications, reviewers are asked to consider three aspects of
the application: its Research Excellence (primary criterion), the suitability of the applicant
(primary criterion) and its Pathways to Impact (secondary criterion).

NERC has a policy of feeding back reviewer comments to applicants anonymously. As
such you should avoid comments that could identify you, your level of expertise or the
grades you have awarded to the applicant. All comments made should be in a manner
suitable to be fed back to the applicant. If you think a particular comment could be
misinterpreted or cause offence, please do not include it. On a final note please ensure
that you fully justify all grades given by providing clear and comprehensive comments in
the accompanying text boxes.

A. Research Excellence Criterion

There is no simple definition of Research Excellence. Applications may build directly on
prior work, or may involve a speculative leap forward. It may involve progress along an
established research direction or a tangential switch into a new or different area, or may
bring together expertise and approaches from different discipline areas. All of these
approaches could demonstrate excellence, so your judgement should not simply be
based on which approach has been adopted.

An application that demonstrates excellence can be characterised by terms such as:
novel, ambitious, timely, exciting, at the international forefront, adventurous, elegant, or
transformative but need not demonstrate all of them. Often you might expect to see a
plausible hypothesis, with some basis within the published literature, and clearly
identified objectives that sensibly test that hypothesis. However applications do not need
to be hypotheses driven and may instead focus on an exploratory approach or the
development of a new technology. Certainty of outcome is not an indicator of excellence,
but neither is an incremental approach necessarily an indicator that an application lacks
excellence.

Your review should consider:
   • the potential rewards of the project: the significance and quality of the work, and
       the scientific impact it will have in terms of enhancing or developing insights,
       developing the field and adding to knowledge or understanding in the area to be
       studied in a national or international context;
   • the extent to which the research questions, issues or problems that will be
       addressed through the work are stated and their importance and appropriateness
       specified;
   • how the application fits within the current state of knowledge and other work
       under way in the field;
   • the appropriateness, effectiveness and feasibility of the proposed research
       methods and/or approach.

It should also be noted that:
     • the existence of competing applicants elsewhere should not be seen as a reason
        for downgrading an application, unless the work proposed is a direct duplication
        of other work already being undertaken;
     • your Research Excellence score should not be lowered because you think that
        the research project fails to fit fully within the NERC remit, as Responsive Mode
        funding is unconstrained by strategic science priorities and can cross remit
        boundaries with other UK research councils;
     • you should not be afraid of recommending innovative and speculative
        applications, which may appear ‘risky’;
     • for multidisciplinary applications, it is unlikely that you will be familiar with all the
        aspects associated with the programme of research. If you only feel confident to
        comment on particular elements of the application, please restrict your comments
        to these, and tell us what they are; and
     • for technology-led, adventurous and multidisciplinary applications, it is possible
        that a standard technique or method is being employed in a novel way or context.
        It is not appropriate to lower your Research Excellence score to reflect this
        element if it underpins an otherwise exciting piece of research.

B. Suitability of Applicant

Applicants are required to include a CV and a list of recent, relevant publications with
their application. Applicants for postdoctoral fellowships can also include a personal
reference with their proposal, as they may have a limited track record if they have
recently completed their PhD. Based on this information you should comment on the
suitability of the applicant for a fellowship award, and whether or not they have shown a
thorough grasp of their discipline and whether they offer considerable promise as an
independent researcher. Fellowships may be held full or part-time and NERC welcomes
applications from candidates who wish to work on a part-time/flexible basis in order to
combine domestic responsibilities with a career. Reviewers should take into account
career breaks and part-time working when reviewing the applicant’s track record.

C. Pathways to Impact Criterion

Applicants are required to identify the potential societal and economic impact of their
work and to outline the steps they can sensibly make to facilitate the realisation of this
impact. Impact is not synonymous with early exploitation. It can take many forms over
widely varying timescales. It might involve developing a commercial product or service,
or creating a new technology, but could also be about contributions to national planning
or social policy. At the same time, traditional blue skies research is still very highly
valued and, for such applications, the impact of the work may be academic—for
example, impact on a discipline area. However, unless this academic impact is a critical
step in the pathway to economic and societal impact, it should only be described in the
Academic Beneficiaries section of the application.

More detailed information about what impact does and does not include is available on
the NERC web page at www.nerc.ac.uk/funding/application/pathwaystoimpact.asp, and
you are strongly encouraged to read this before completing this part of your assessment.

You are asked to assess how effectively and realistically the applicants have addressed
this issue in their application. For this you should consider:
     • how convincingly the potential impact of the activity has been described;
     • how appropriate the described pathways are to the particular funding scheme;
     • how that impact compares to your normal expectations for the general type of
         activity proposed;
     • how appropriate/effective the arrangements described for facilitating the impact
         are; and
     • how appropriate any collaboration arrangements in the application are in this
         respect.

You should not necessarily be seeking tangible deliverables, direct return on investment
or detailed routes to exploitation in making your assessment.

Fellowship Scheme Scoring System

Upon consideration of these assessment criteria, a separate score of between 0 and 6
should be awarded for the Research Excellence, Suitability of Applicant and Pathways to
Impact of the application that you are reviewing. For example If you consider an
application to be outstanding in terms of Research Excellence, to have a good quality
Applicant and a good description of the Pathways to Impact of the work, you should
score a 6 for the former aspect, and a 3 for both the latter aspects.
It is important to stress that Research Excellence and Suitability of Applicant are the
primary assessment criteria with Pathways to Impact a secondary criterion. The panel
will take this distinction between primary and secondary criteria into account when
considering the scores you provide. The scores you provide will not be summed or
averaged.

Definitions of the scores are provided in the following tables:

 Score Research Excellence (Primary Criterion)

 6         Outstanding
           The proposed work meets outstanding standards in terms of originality,
           quality and significance and addresses extremely important scientific
           questions or will enable them to be addressed through technological
           development.
 5         Excellent
           The proposed work meets excellent standards in terms of originality, quality
           and significance and addresses highly important scientific questions or will
           enable them to be addressed through technological development.
 4         Very Good
           The proposed work meets high standards of originality, quality and
           significance and addresses important scientific questions or will enable them
           to be addressed through technological development.
 3         Good
           The proposed work is of merit, meets satisfactory standards of originality,
           quality and significance and addresses reasonably important scientific
           questions or will enable them to be addressed through technological
           development.
 2         Not Competitive/ Modest
           The proposed work is potentially of some merit but overall is of inconsistent
           quality, significance and originality but could result in some useful
           knowledge.
 1         Unfundable/ Poor
           The proposed work is unsatisfactory in terms of originality, quality and
           significance and is unlikely to advance the field.
 0         Non-Scoring
           For special cases e.g. flawed in scientific approach, subject to serious
           technical difficulties, insufficiently clearly written that it cannot be properly
           assessed, or is duplicative of other research.



 Score Suitability of Applicant (Primary Criterion)

 6        Outstanding
          Outstanding applicant with exceptional track record and/or potential.
 5        Excellent
          Excellent applicant with excellent track record and/or potential.
 4        Very Good
          Very good applicant with very good track record and/or potential.
3      Good
       Good applicant with good track record and/or potential.
2      Adequate
       Competent applicant with satisfactory track record and/or potential.
1      Poor
       Weak applicant with poor track record and/or potential.
0      Non-Scoring
       Not enough information available to judge quality of candidate.


Score Pathways to Impact (Secondary Criterion)

6      Outstanding - Strong and potentially effective Pathways to Impact:

       • All appropriate end-users have been identified and are actively engaged.
       • End-users have been involved in the development of the application from its
         inception and this involvement is clearly demonstrated.
       • A clear understanding of the needs of the end-user community is
         demonstrated and potential end-user benefits are comprehensively
         identified.
       • Letters of support provide real evidence of end-user interest, support and
         potential end-user benefit.
       • Activities proposed are appropriate to the research, use both routine and
         novel ways of engaging end-users and are likely to generate very significant
         potential for impact. Management of these activities has been well thought
         out in terms of timing, personnel, finance, etc, and the ability to deliver them
         is clearly evident.
5      Excellent - Robust Pathways to Impact with minor weaknesses:

       • Most appropriate end-users have been identified and are actively engaged.
       • End-users have been involved in the development of the application, but
         possibly not from its inception. This involvement is clearly demonstrated.
       • A clear understanding of the needs of the end-user community is
         demonstrated, but this may not have been translated into a comprehensive
         identification of potential end-user benefits. However, regardless of which
         end-user needs have been identified, the research will likely go a significant
         way to answering them.
       • Letters of support do provide real evidence of end-user interest. End-user
         support is more limited, but there is clear evidence of how the proposed
         work will benefit the end-user.
       • Activities proposed are appropriate to the research, use both routine and
         novel ways of engaging end-users and are likely to generate significant
         potential for impact. Management of these activities has not been laid out in
         detail, but this should not pose a risk to the ability to deliver these activities.
4      Very Good - Appropriate Pathways to Impact with minor weaknesses:

       • Some appropriate end-users have been identified and are engaged.
       • End-users have been involved in the development of the application, but
         perhaps only in the latter stages.
    • An understanding of the needs of the end-user community is demonstrated,
      but it is not fully developed. Some potential end-user benefits have been
      identified and the research will likely go some way to answering their needs.
    • Letters of support provide evidence of end-user interest and potential end-
      user benefits, but the connection between the proposed work and the end-
      user benefits may be unclear.
    • Activities proposed are appropriate to the research and use both routine and
      novel ways of engaging end-users. These activities are likely to generate
      reasonable potential for impact. However some appropriate activities may
      have been missed.
    • Whilst the management of activities has clearly been thought through, there
      is a minor risk that it will not be possible to deliver these activities in the
      appropriate time frame, or with the resources requested.
3   Good - Satisfactory Pathways to Impact with evident weaknesses:

    • Some attempt has been made to identify likely beneficiaries, but they have
      not been engaged in the development of the application. The most
      appropriate end-users may have been missed.
    • End-users are involved, but only in a rather passive manner.
    • Only a modest understanding of the needs of the end-user community is
      demonstrated. Potential end-user benefits are identified, but it is not clear
      how the research will answer the particular end-user need.
    • Letters of support are of a standard format and although demonstrating
      general support for the application, don’t go very far in outlining end-user
      interest or potential benefit.
    • Activities proposed are generally routine and unlikely to result in significant
      impact within the end-user community. Some attempt has been made to
      identify more novel forms of engagement, but the most appropriate activities
      may have been missed.
    • There is some evidence that management of the activities has been
      considered, but the detail provided is limited.
2   Modest - Weak Pathways to Impact with major flaws:

    • Only a limited attempt has been made to identify likely beneficiaries and
      those that have been identified may have been approached as an ‘after-
      thought’. The most appropriate end-users have been missed.
    • The Pathways to Impact may describe anticipated end-user involvement, but
      no engagement has actually taken place.
    • A limited understanding of the needs of the end-user community is
      demonstrated, but there is no clear idea of potential end-user benefits, or of
      how the research might answer the particular end-user need.
    • Letters of support are of a standard format and although demonstrating
      general support for the application, do not go very far in outlining end-user
      interest or potential benefit.
    • Activities are limited and may be inappropriate to the proposed work. They
      are unlikely to result in any real impact within the end-user community.
    • Management of the activities has only been loosely considered and there is
      no detail concerning who is going to carry out the activities or how much
      they are going to cost, etc. Resources requested may not be adequate and
      the timing of the activities will likely do little to enhance the potential for
          impact.



 1       Poor - Only minor aspects of impact have been demonstrated:

         • Little or no attempt has been made to go beyond routine impact activities
           where non-routine activities would clearly be possible. Any activities or users
           that have been identified are not appropriate to the research described in
           the application.
         • Little or no attempt has been made to identify likely beneficiaries, even
           though there is an end-user community with an interest in the proposed
           work. End-users that have been identified may be inappropriate to the
           proposed work.
         • The Pathways to Impact make little attempt to describe any end-user
           involvement and there has been no prior engagement with end-users.
         • There is little or no understanding of the needs of the end-user community.
           Any end-user benefits that are described are likely to be unrelated.
         • Letters of support are absent.
         • Any activities that have been proposed are not particularly relevant to the
           proposed work and will not result in any impact within the end-user
           community.
         • Management of the activities has not been considered sufficiently and little
           or no information is provided as to how the activities will be managed.

                - No Pathways to Impact have been described:

         • Either there is no justification, or the justification given is not deemed
           adequate or appropriate.
 0       Non-Scoring - No Pathways to Impact have been described:

         • Full justification has been given and the justification is considered
           appropriate given the nature of the research.

Further to providing the three scores for Research Excellence, Suitability of Applicant
and Pathways to Impact, reviewers of Responsive Mode Fellowship applications are
asked to provide comments on the following aspects:

Interview Questions

Reviewers are asked to indicate any questions or issues that you think should be
addressed by the applicant if they reach the interview stage.

Availability of Required Facilities

Reviewers should provide comments on whether the facilities in the applicants host
department (including collaborative institutions) are appropriate for the fellowship
Resources

As a public funding organisation, NERC must ensure that funding is allocated on a basis
that ensures best value for money. Reviewers should provide comments on all
resources requested as part of the application, including those associated with the
Pathways to Impact.

				
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