Peer review

Peer review forms the basis of funding decisions at CRUK. When you apply to us for research funding, your application will be taken through a thorough peer review assessment process.

Depending on the funding you’ve applied for, this can include written peer review, assessment by an expert review panel or an interview. Final funding decisions are made by our funding committees.

How we award research funding

In order to beat cancer sooner, we fund high quality research that aligns with our Research Strategy. Independent scientific experts in the research community make recommendations for funding in accordance with our strategy and within the budgets we set.

We have over 40 funding opportunities, each of which fall under the remit of one of our expert funding committees. Our grants are awarded in open competition and only after all funding applications are scrutinised through scientific peer review by appropriately qualified experts.

We are a member of the Association of Medical Research Charities (AMRC) and as such we follow the AMRC’s high standards and recommended principles of peer review:

  • Accountability
  • Balance
  • Independent decision making
  • Rotation of scientific advisors
  • Impartiality

All our schemes are designed to ensure we fund the highest quality, internationally competitive science and the best researchers, judged through a fair, robust and transparent process.

The review process for each scheme depends on the duration, cost and strategic priority of the grant. We use a multi-tiered peer review process to ensure scientific rigour and strategic fit. Funding applications are assessed by a combination of steps described below:

Application submitted
Funding committtee outline review* A short-form application outline will be reviewed by the Funding Committee. Successful applicants are then invited to submit a more detailed application (called a ‘full application’).
Written peer review Full applications go to international experts for a detailed review of the application.
Expert Review Panel* Applications may be assessed by an Expert Review Panel (ERP); panel members include some overlap with members of the funding committee. For large grants this will include an interview. ERPs provide a scientific quality score. 
Funding committee review Members take into account the quality assessment of written reviewers and ERPs (if any) but also consider the strategic importance and portfolio fit before making a funding decision. Fellowship schemes and our Pioneer Award scheme involve an interview at this stage.
Funding issued
Milestone review Depending on the type of research, award holders may submit either annual or triennial milestone reviews. These are assessed by the funding committee before the next portion of funding is released.

*Some schemes omit one or both of these stages

We also regularly review the work being funded in order to decide whether we should continue to fund it.

Written peer review

To ensure we fund the best quality science and researchers, we operate a rigorous external, written review process as the first step in making funding decisions.

We ask external, independent scientific experts to provide written peer review comments on applications submitted to us. We aim to engage the most appropriate reviewers that are nationally/internationally competitive researchers, who have expertise relevant to the applicant’s proposal.

We ask all our reviewers to declare any potential conflicts of interest before carrying out peer review, so that funding decisions are not influenced, or perceived to be influenced, by factors other than scientific merit.

Peer reviewers assess applications according to the following core criteria:

  • the impact, importance and relevance to our Research Strategy
  • the originality and novelty of the work
  • the proposal’s feasibility and research design
  • the appropriateness of level of support requested
  • the expertise and track record of the researcher(s) and research environment

We are signatories to the San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment (DORA). As such, when considering the track record of researchers and their suitability in delivering the proposed research, our reviewers will consider the value and impact of all research outputs, including preprints, training, contribution to consortia, patents, and sharing of key datasets, software, novel assays and reagents, in addition to research publications. When considering research publications, our reviewers will recognise that the content of a scientific paper and its influence in the field holds more significance than publication metrics or where it was published.

Only with the expertise and commitment of our research community who sit on our panels and committees and participate in our independent peer review, can we continue to accelerate progress against cancer. We continue to fund the highest quality research because of our reviewers and for this we are extremely grateful. We expect all our funded researchers to participate in our written peer review process.

Contact the grants team

If you've been asked to peer review for us and need any help, contact our grants team:

grants.helpline@cancer.org.uk

0203 469 5452

How we fund research

Our short video explains how we decide which projects deserve our support.

Terms and Conditions for Peer Review

By agreeing to peer review an application for us, you agree to declare any conflicts of interest and to treat the information in the application as confidential.

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