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EME Guidance for completing a review task (professional contributors) NEW




In completing this task you are fulfilling three functions. Firstly, you will be providing an appraisal of the  proposal that will inform the funding committee's decision-making process; secondly, you will provide guidance to the research teams about their proposed work; thirdly, you will be participating in our quality assurance process to ensure that the proposed research is important, timely and scientifically robust.

We will be seeking comments from a range of individuals, both from professional backgrounds and members of the public, to gain a range of opinions as to the merit of the proposed research.

Once a funding decision has been made and communicated to applicants, the decision and comments from all the reviews (anonymised) on the proposal will be shared with you. Please feel free to use as much or as little space as you wish as the box provided for your comments will expand to accommodate your text.


Once you agree to undertake a review the applications are shared with you and you will need to confirm that you will not disclose to any other person the fact that the applicant has applied for a research award, nor will you disclose the content of the application to any other person (including work colleagues) or use the information for any purpose other than providing a review of it to NETSCC. If you wish to seek input from a colleague then you need to obtain permission from programme staff before sharing any details of the application or applicants. When completing your review, you should not reference other applications, or disclose any contents contained therein where a decision on the funding of a study has not been made publicly available. Please do not make any comparisons with other applications you may be reviewing as all your comments (anonymised) will be seen by the applicants.

Your completed responses are considered confidential by the NIHR Evaluation, Trials and Studies Coordinating Centre (NETSCC). Your anonymised comments will be passed to applicants to consider and respond to prior to the meeting of the funding committee. A copy of the anonymised external peer reviewer comments will also be shared with other external peer reviewers after the committee meeting has taken place. Please bear in mind that your comments could be released more widely if a Freedom of Information (FOI)  request were successful.

Potential competing interests

To make the best decisions on proposals for research, we should know about any competing interests that reviewers may have. We have already conducted our own checks to rule out any institutional conflicts (i.e. the applicant or co-applicants and the reviewer based at the same organisation). But it is difficult for us to know about complex professional and interpersonal relationships between individuals working in a similar field of interest.

Please  check the list of ALL applicants and co-applicants in ALL of the applications you are being asked to review before starting the review, and if you feel that a relationship with an organisation or individual could be perceived as prejudicing your review then please contact us for further advice prior to completing the review.

If you have a competing of interest which we do not deem to be significant you may be asked to complete the review, if so, please provide details of the potential competing interest in the box provided. We will not reject your opinion simply because you declare a competing interest, but we would like to know about it. 

Completing your review on the NETSCC MIS

To login to the system and complete your review, please go to the MIS and, if you have a password, enter your login ID (your email address) and password and click “Log In”

If you haven’t used the MIS system before and do not have a password, you will need to request a password. To do this, click on the ‘Forgot your password’ link and enter your email address as your Login ID. You will then be emailed a temporary password, which you can use to login and then change to something more memorable. If you are having problems accessing the system, please contact us. 

  1. Once logged in, under ‘My Tasks’, click on the task ‘Submit External Review Comments’. Please do not click ‘View PDF’ as this is not the application, but will be the PDF your review will be pulled into.
  2. To view the application click ‘Application PDF’ under the Download Application section.
  3. On the left hand menu click on 'Confidentiality Agreement'
  4. Enter your response to this page and click 'Save and Continue'
  5. On the left hand menu click on ‘Competing Interests’
  6. Enter your response on this page, and click ‘Save and Continue’.
  7. Click the ‘Score and Comments’ link on the left hand menu and enter your score and your supporting comments, as per the guidance below. Click ‘Save and Continue’
  8. On the ‘Review & Submit’ page, once you are happy you have completed the review, click on the ‘Submit’ button to finish the task.

For information about individual NIHR funding programmes you can follow the links below:


Where to start?

The Summary (in plain English) is always a good place to start followed by the detailed project description (upload document) which contains most of the information you will need. This should give you a good background to help you understand the proposal. There may also be other sections of the application form that may be helpful and viewed if necessary as well as additional upload documents, such as study flow diagrams and reference material which may help explain the study.

 Most proposals will be in two parts:

  1. The application form that includes detailed information about the team, the plain English summary and Public and Patient Involvement section. 
  1. The detailed project description (upload document) that follows a standard format and forms part of the proposal. You will also find a fuller account of the proposed project as well as more detail about the way the project will be done and its timelines.


Completing the reviewer assessment task

When reading the application please keep the following questions in mind. Throughout your review please try and identify issues that are major concerns and those that are fixable faults. Any additional comments are also welcome. Our external peer reviewers are NOT required to comment on any detailed budget information.


  1. How will the research make a difference? In your experience, will the research, as described, produce or have the potential to lead to, findings that will enable change and benefit patients and the public? This change could impact on the public, patients, carers, health and social care practitioners, decision makers and providers of health and social care services. .
  1. Is the proposed research feasible from your perspective? Can it be successfully delivered as described in the application? If not, please explain which areas would need to be addressed and why. You may want to consider the proposed study approach, the acceptability to all participants or any potential barriers to the research being successful.
  1. What else could the applicants do to improve the research proposed?


Considering the questions above please provide comments to support your score and explain your decision. The box will expand as you type into it. Please note the comments box has a limit of 10000 characters, which equates to around 2-3 pages once pulled through into the PDF document.

Please provide a summary score that reflects your overall assessment of the proposed research

In this section we ask you to provide a summary score.

Scoring can often be challenging, particularly as you may be keen to see research into an important area go forward. It may be worth considering the following table when deciding on the score to give the proposal. Your score should reflect your overall assessment of the proposal. For more information about the funding process please see Appendix A.  


Score   Description of application  Suggested outcome 
 6  Excellent Proposed research can be funded as it stands
 5  Good Proposed research can be funded  with minor changes
 4  Good potential There is much merit in this proposal, but it could be funded, perhaps after resubmission, with additional external support
 3  Some merits There are significant weaknesses in this proposal, but these could in principle be addressed.
 2  Poor Weak proposal
 1 Extremely poor Unsupportable proposal


Appendix A: The funding process

When considering stage 2 applications, the committee members have the responsibility to take into account the views from all reviewers and other committee members to decide what research to recommend for funding.

Funding Committee members are asked to score each proposal based on the view they have formed, and an average score is calculated for the proposal. The highest scoring proposals will be recommended for funding. Those proposals that are deemed ‘important’ but have other issues, which may prevent them achieving a high score, can be designated as a ‘fund with change’. All of our funding committees include public members, and all stage 2 proposals  should also have an assessment by an appropriately experienced member of the public.  All proposals which are designated as a ‘fund with change’ are required to go through an iterative process to ensure that they have corrected all issues before they are taken further.