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.
Direct to Full Text Report