National Health and Medical Research Council's (NHMRC) peer review process is integral to supporting the best health and medical research in Australia.
Peer review helps NHMRC make decisions on funding based on impartiality and expert advice. The ongoing voluntary participation of the research community in the peer review process ensures that NHMRC continues to fund the best health and medical research and researchers. NHMRC's principles of peer review underpin the peer review of all of its funding schemes. Peer review relies on peer reviewers complying with these principles, where appropriate, and providing rigorous assessment of applications for NHMRC funding to ensure transparency, probity and fairness of process. NHMRC appreciates and values the contribution that peer reviewers make to this process. See:
Benefits of participating in peer review
Contributing to peer review is an important step in your professional development, and provides the opportunity to contribute further to Australia's health and medical research. Participating in peer review offers you the opportunity to see the breadth of research conducted in Australia and to examine new research in your field of expertise. By improving your understanding of NHMRC's peer review process and reviewing applications, you have the possibility of strengthening your own applications in the future.
Guiding principles for peer review nomination and appointments, and self-nomination
Nominations and appointments of NHMRC peer reviewers across any NHMRC scheme is guided by the below principles.
NHMRC also invites researchers to self-nominate for consideration to undertake peer review for our funding schemes. A guide to self-nomination has been developed to assist researchers to consider which funding scheme would be most appropriate, as below:
How can Administering Institutions encourage personnel to participate in peer review?
Under the NHMRC Funding Agreement the Administering Institution must make available to NHMRC, free of charge but subject to NHMRC providing reasonable notice to the Administering Institution, the services of Specified Personnel to provide professional input into reviewing or assessing applications made under a Scheme in the Personnel’s area of expertise as required by NHMRC.
Below are some suggestions for Administering Institutions (AIs) to incentivise their personnel to participate in peer review:
- A letter of thanks from the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (DVCR) (or similar) to personnel who participate in peer review. NHMRC's Peer Review Honour Roll includes the peer reviewers' AI.
- A reminder from AI Research Offices to NHMRC grant recipients alerting them of their obligation to participate in NHMRC peer review.
- Workshops and training sessions for peer reviewers.
- Inclusion of peer review participation in relevant AI policies, such as those involving recruitment and promotion decisions.
- Allowing personnel to complete peer review duties during their standard working hours, rather than being expected to use their personal time.
Peer review processes and evaluations
Application-centric peer review
Ideas Grants and Investigator Grants schemes use application-centric peer review whereby individual applications are matched to the most suitable peer reviewers based on their suitability and conflict of interest declarations such that each application can have a unique best-fit set of reviewers.
- Find out more about the development and implementation of application-centric peer review
- Discover how application-centric peer review has benefited the Investigator Grants scheme by viewing the infographic on the application-centric peer review page.
Relative to Opportunity
In 2021, NHMRC trialed a new approach to the assessment of Relative to Opportunity in the Investigator Grant scheme, where all applicants were required to provide:
- A career context summary describing their individual circumstances and opportunities for research and how these circumstances have positively and/or negatively affected their research productivity
- Additional structured information on their career stage, career history, career disruptions and research (in)active periods.
This approach was intended to ensure that each applicant's track record and associated productivity were considered in the context of their specific career circumstances. It also reinforced the objective that all applicants must be assessed relative to opportunity, as researchers have diverse careers and life circumstances.
NHMRC evaluated this trial approach to the assessment of Relative to Opportunity in the 2021 Investigator Grant round by surveying both applicants and peer reviewers for the scheme. Overall, data from both applicant and peer reviewer surveys indicated that information collected as part of 'relative to opportunity' was useful in application and/or assessment of career circumstances. These findings indicate that the revised approach to Relative to Opportunity is mostly effective in achieving its objectives and intended outcomes.
The evaluation report is now available in the download section.
Resources and training materials
Peer review guidelines
Scheme-specific peer review guidelines are available on the webpage for each scheme. The peer review guidelines are designed specifically for peer reviewers, and outline the peer review process and associated policies for each scheme.
Disclosure of interest and suitability declaration training modules
Training modules for peer reviewers to build their knowledge on NHMRC's disclosure of interest and suitability declaration processes are available in the following:
Sound understanding of these processes reduces peer reviewers' workload and contributes to the rigour and integrity of NHMRC's peer review system.
Peer review mentor videos
NHMRC has produced short videos featuring experienced peer reviewers to address some of the key questions and themes relating to peer review for the Investigator Grant and Ideas Grant schemes. These videos can be viewed using the following links:
This video is to assist Peer Reviewers to incorporate the Indigenous Research Excellence Criteria (or IREC) into their assessments for relevant applications.
This short video focusses on addressing the Indigenous Research Excellence Criteria featuring some of our Peer Review Mentors. Note that some of the examples provided within the video relate to the category descriptors for the Ideas Grant scheme, however the information on how to apply the IREC in peer review will also be relevant across other schemes.
Guide to evaluating industry-relevant experience
Peer reviewers should appropriately recognise an applicant's industry-relevant experience and outputs. To assist peer reviewers with their assessments, see the guide to evaluating industry-relevant experience provided in the following:
External and international resources
Peer review for assessment of research is used throughout the world. Several agencies have developed publicly available resources that may have some overlap with NHMRC's peer review processes and objectives, and therefore assist peer reviewers to understand and undertake their roles to a high standard. Note that the links below are provided for additional reference only, and peer reviewers are required to adhere to NHMRC's peer review processes and policies for the schemes they are assessing applications for:
- Canadian Institutes of Health Research training modules
- Implicit bias training (Harvard Implicit Bias – Gender and Science test)
- San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment: Rethinking research assessment; Recommendation on metrics.
Peer review honour roll
The effectiveness and sustainability of NHMRC peer review processes depends on researchers with excellent track records and wide-ranging expertise in Australian and international health and medical research fields, who contribute as peer reviewers and external assessors, and individuals from the broader community who independently observe and report on processes and proceedings used by NHMRC during peer review.
Yearly honour rolls of peer reviewers, chairs, mentors, community observers and external assessors, who have contributed to NHMRC peer review processes, are provided at:
Honour rolls for 2018-2020 are in the downloads section below and prior years are available on the Peer review honour roll (Trove snapshot – 18 August 2017).
NHMRC thanks all researchers for their contributions and asks institutions to include such service to medical research in their appointments and promotions activities.