Selection Process

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 golod 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 Process

Schematic representation of the Seed- and Boost Fund selection process. ERS Schematic representation of the Seed- and Boost Fund selection process.

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. Further details of the review process depend on the type of program.

Two supervisors from the ERS Selection Group will be assigned to projects in the Seed Funds, and Boost Fund funding lines. 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

  1. Excellence: The aim of the project evaluation is to judge the scientific excellence of the proposal
  2. Absence of bias: All applications are assessed equally.
  3. Transparency: Nominations for funding follow a standardized assessment process. Applicants receive feedback on the results of the evaulation.
  4. Quality: The review process is conducted following high quality standards, comparable to other national and review processes.
  5. Confidentiality: All proposals and the knowledge, data, and documents contained therein will be kept in thestrictest confidentiality.
  6. 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, and research plan.

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.

Drawing on these recommendations, the Rectorate decides on which projects will receive funding.

Proposals concerning the establishment of a Project House must undergo a two-stage evaluation process. After a pre-selection by the ERS Selection Group of the submitted project sketches, the applicants are invited to present their initiative for a Project House to the ERS Selection Group.

Selection of Reviewers

When selecting reviewers for the evaluation process, the ERS Selection Committee not only seeks to chose experts in the respective research areas, but also tries to make sure, as far as possible, to exclude bias – both positive and negative – on the part of the reviewers.

The reviewers, who work in an honorary capacity, are expected to be recognized experts in their field whose broad knowledge of the field enables them adequately to assess the proposal in question. We are at pains to make sure that the reviewers are neither prejudiced nor biased, e.g. due to collaboration, competition, or e.g. a former mentor-mentee relationship. Applicants have the opportunity to reject reviewers for good reason.

We select both German an international reviewers. There is no permanent group of reviewers from which the project reviewers are selected; reviewers are individually selected according to the requirements of the individual project proposal.

The reviewers agree to hold the proposals in the strictest confidentiality and do not pass them on to third parties. Furthermore, the ERS Management Team treats the evaluations in strict confidentiality. The names of the reviewers are only known to the project supervisors from the ERS Selection Committee and the ERS Management Team. Only anonymized excerpts from proposal evaluations will be discussed during the selection process.

Code of Good Practice

All reviewers agree to act in accordance with the code of conduct summarized below. If a review has been created in violation of any of the below rules, it will not be taken into consideration in the selection process.

  1. Reviews are to be created following the rules of good scientific practice. All statements in the review must be truthful and accurate; they are not to violate the intellectual property of third parties or to impair their research activities.
  2. By accepting an invitation to participate in the review process, the reviewer declares to be competent in important aspects of the proposal in question. Should experts feel insufficiently competent to join in the assessment process they are to inform the ERS and destroy any documentation concerning the proposal.
  3. Should reviewers feel they may be biased they are to withdraw from the peer review process and destroy any pertinent documentation in their possession. This also applies in the event of possible conflicts of interest.
  4. The assessment of a proposal – be it positive or negative – takes into account general subject-specific, scientific aspects as well as the specific requirements, goals, and constraints of the funding line in question.
  5. The reviewers receive proposals in confidence and protect the confidentiality of their contents. The must not forward or disclose to anyone any material from any proposal they are asked to review.

Please note that this Code of Good Practice takes its cue from the one published by the Volkswagen Foundation.