May 19, 2022

First Large-Scale Survey on Grant Peer Review Published By Publons

From a Clarivate Analytics Announcement:

The first large-scale survey on competitive research grant peer review, Grant Review in Focus, is published today by Publons, part of the Web of Science Group (a Clarivate Analytics company).

A grant is a financial award given by a governmental body, non-profit, or private enterprise for a beneficial project of some kind, and the peer review of grant funding is a fundamental part of the research life cycle. Grant Review in Focus brings together the most extensive researcher survey on grant peer review ever conducted – with more than 4,500 respondents- and the full power of the Web of Science and InCites datasets. The researchers surveyed have reviewed, or applied for funds from over 800 unique funders, spread across 95 countries. A range of funders were also interviewed for qualitative insights.


The report also finds that 89% of reviewers believe that greater recognition of grant peer review work would improve the process, with 81% believing that funders should take on this responsibility. They are dissatisfied with the transparency of the grant peer review process, with 60% believing that greater transparency of review identity would have a positive impact on the process. This is even higher than publication peer reviewers (40%).  Cash payments might seem an attractive driver of reviewer participation to many funders, but it does not seem to motivate reviewers (cash comes sixth for reviewers in a list of motivating incentives) as much as a desire for transparency and recognition.

Other findings include:

  • Peer review is consistently recognized as a bulwark of quality, with 78% of researchers agreeing it is the best way to allocate funds to the best research.
  • However, researchers also identify perceived failings of the peer review process, including unfair treatment of junior researchers and an aversity for innovative research.
  • Grant peer review is a time-intensive endeavour: funders spend up to six hours per application finding reviewers, and grant reviewers spend an average 10 days per year on reviews.
  • Finding peer reviewers is proving increasingly difficult for funders, with funders now having to invite at least three reviewers to secure one reviewer.
  • The reviewer workload is not evenly distributed, with just 4% of reviewers accounting for over 25% of all reviews undertaken.
  • Greater training for peer reviewers and explicit guidelines to reviewers are needed to ensure the quality and consistency of grant funding decisions.

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About Gary Price

Gary Price ( is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.