The Research Councils fund research on a competitive basis employing independent expert peer review. This system is regarded as an international benchmark of excellence in research funding, and this provides a guarantee of the quality of UK research.
In peer review, proposals for research funding are considered and assessed for scientific quality by a number of senior academics or "peers", from the UK and overseas, who work within relevant areas of research. This assessment or "review" provides the basis of the funding decision.
The peer review processes employed are designed to be sensitive to the different needs and cultures that exist within the academic community and also reflect the variety of mechanisms employed to support different types of research e.g. basic or strategic research, or the need to encourage adventurous or multidisciplinary research.
Each Research Council publishes information about its peer review process and these can be found using the links below:
Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC)
Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC)
Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)
Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)
Medical Research Council (MRC)
Natural Environment Research Council (NERC)
Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC)
Whilst maintaining a commitment to use a variety of approaches to peer review, Councils are keen to simplify and standardise the processes involved in applying for research funding. Councils regularly review their policies and procedures as their research communities evolve and continually strive to provide more effective administrative services.
The RCUK Peer Review Framework describes how peer review is used in assessing proposals and making funding decisions. The framework also outlines what information is routinely published relating to proposals and awards, and the approach taken by the Councils in responding to requests for information about the assessment process. The framework is designed for use by Applicants and Research Organisations, Board/Panel members and external reviewers, members of the public and Research Council staff.