Yesterday, I resigned from the EPSRC college of reviewers.
The EPSRC is the national funding body in the UK for Engineering and Physical Sciences. The college of reviewers is responsible for reading grant proposals and making recommendations to panels with regard to the quality, feasibility and utility of the underlying work.
The EPSRC aims to fund international quality science, but the college of reviewers is a national body of researchers. Allocation of proposals to reviewers is done within the EPSRC.
In 2012 I was asked to view only one proposal, in 2013 so far I have received none. The average number of review requests per college member in 2012 was 2.7.
It’s not that I haven’t been doing any proposal reviewing over the last 18 months, I’ve reviewed for the Dutch research councils, the EU, the Academy of Finland, the National Science Foundation (USA), BBSRC, MRC and I’m contracted as part of a team to provide a major review for the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research. I’d estimate that I’ve reviewed around 20 international applications in the area of machine learning and computational biology across this period.
I resigned from the EPSRC College of Reviewers because I don’t wish people to read the list of names in the college and assume that, as a member of the college, I am active in assessing the quality of work the EPSRC is funding. Looking back over the last ten years all the proposals I have reviewed come from a very small body of researchers, all of whom, I know, nominate me as a reviewer.
Each submitted proposal nominates a number of reviewers who the proposers consider to be appropriate. The EPSRC chooses one of these nominated reviewers, and selects the remainder from the wider college.
Over a 12 year period as an academic, I have never been selected to review an EPSRC proposal unless I’ve been nominated by the proposers to do so.
So in many senses this resignation changes nothing, but by resigning from the college I’m highlighting the fact that if you do think I am appropriate for reviewing your proposal, then the only way it will happen is if you nominate me.