Exploratory Research Space aims to make transparent and dependable funding decisions. This requires an appropriate evaluation process and an adequate selection of reviewers. In selecting ERS projects for funding, a well-defined code of conduct is adhered to. This code of good practice has been defined by ERS, generally following the Code of Good Practice published by Volkswagen Foundation. Reviewers have to adhere to this code of good practice.
Review / Evaluation ProcessERS
First, the ERS Management Team will check whether the application for funding fulfills the criteria published in the call for application. In this context, interdisciplinarity is of particular importance, i.e. at least two faculties have to contribute to the research projects. Also, maximum length in terms of number of pages will be checked.
Two supervisors from the ERS Selection Group will be assigned to projects. The chosen supervisors are expected to be unbiased, and they should have a background in a field which is closely related to that of the assigned project.
The supervisors involve one or more reviewers from the research area of the project under review. Thus, there will be at least two reviews for each application, which facilitating a reliable and comprehensive assessment.
Code of Conduct
Excellence: The aim of the project evaluation is to judge the scientific excellence of the proposal
Absence of bias: All applications are assessed equally.
Transparency: Nominations for funding follow a standardized assessment process. Applicants receive feedback on the results of the evaulation.
Quality: The review process is conducted following high quality standards, comparable to other national and review processes.
Confidentiality: All proposals and the knowledge, data, and documents contained therein will be kept in the strictest confidentiality.
Ethics and Integrity: Proposals which fall short of the University's ethical standards will not be considered.
Project proposals with a volume of up to 50,000 euros will be evaluated in a university-internal review process. For project proposals with a volume between 50,000 and 75,000 euros, the assigned supervisors from the ERS Selection Group decide whether the review process will be conducted by internal or external expert reviewers. Projects with a volume above 75,000 euro will be evaluated by external reviewers.
Reviewers will make use of a standardized questionnaire to evaluate the proposals. Selection criteria are originality, interdisciplinarity, subsidiarity (here: the project does not stand any chance of receiving funding from other sources), team structure, relevance to and impact on RWTH’s strategic plan, scientific approach, research plan, and the plan for research data management, whereby any missing interdisciplinarity or subsidiary are automatic criteria for the proposal to be excluded from consideration.
The supervising SC members agree on and nominate possible reviewers and make sure that every relevant aspect of a proposal is covered in the review process. The honorary reviewers should be recognized experts in their field and have sufficiently broad expertise to provide a substantial, objective assessment. Possible conflicts of interest resulting from direct competitive, collaborative, or other relationships are strictly avoided. Applicants have the opportunity to provide the names of potential peer reviewers they wish to exclude from consideration in the peer review of their proposal.
The ERS Management Team collects the anonymized reviews and creates an overview of all evaluations. If both supervisors of the selection committee have strong reservations about the quality of the proposal, an evaluation is not conducted upon agreement with the ERS Steering Committee. In this case both supervisors issue a short evaluation, in which the most significant critical points are summarized. The ERS Selection Group draws on these anonymous evaluations when deliberating on which projects are to be recommended for funding.
If too many projects are deemed suitable to receive funding due to similar ratings, then the decision will be made with the help of a selection procedure based on a point system. In this, each member of the selection committee that is present will be able to award a limited number of points – a one-time award of five points, two points and one point respectively.
The Rector's Office has the final decision making authority and decides on which projects will receive funding.