AAMRI submission to the NHMRC peer review consultation

AAMRI submission to the NHMRC peer review consultation

In AAMRI’s submission to the NHMRC peer review consultation discussion paper a new peer review system is proposed. This is based on increasing the number of expert reviews of applications, and then ranking the quality of applications relative to each other. AAMRI’s submission highlights a number areas where change is needed to improve peer review within the grant program, including:

  1. The outcome of an application is too heavily influenced by the view of the primary and secondary spokespersons. An increased number of reviews would reduce an overreliance on the primary spokesperson’s assessment of a grant application. The more times a grant application is reviewed the greater the confidence we can have in the outcome.
  2. The Assigners Academy has had the unintended consequence of drawing away valuable experience from the Grant Review Panels. The introduction of a more sophisticated keyword matching algorithm (with some initial human oversight) would allow the Assigners Academy to be discontinued, and its members returned to Grant Review Panels.
  3. Conflict of interest rules are making it difficult for some applications to be adequately assessed at the Grant Review Panel stage. On occasions, the best experts on a Grant Review Panel must remove themselves because of a conflict of interest, which further concentrates the decision-making process with the primary spokesperson. This problem will be further exacerbated as the number of large multi-team, multi-author collaborations increases. Conflict of interest rules will need to be revised to deal with this issue.
  4. Participation in the peer review process should not be optional. Every person in receipt of an NHMRC grant must participate in the process when asked, and there should be sanctions against those that do not provide an adequate excuse for not participating.
  5. Multiple or open rounds for grant programs are favoured at the expenses of removing the rebuttal stage. There is no support for introducing an expression of interest stage for Ideas, People and Synergy Grants.
  6. Significant administrative burden can be decreased by reducing the track record section to a three- to four-page maximum. Track record should appear in one place in the application when viewed by the assessor, and any career disruption extensions that have been applied should be included automatically.