The work of the review boards

The review boards are made up of researchers from the German research system who perform their responsibilities either in face-to-face meetings or through a written process.

The Framework Rules of Procedure decided by the DFG Senate define specific boundaries for the work undertaken by the review boards. They form the basis upon which the review boards set their own rules of procedure for their respective term of office and elect a spokesperson and deputy spokesperson.

Assessment based on a written review process

Some review boards tend to work primarily in meetings or video conferences, others predominantly in writing or a mixture of these approaches. The individual review boards generally meet four times a year for joint sessions. In the case of proposals where the reviewers have cast an unequivocal vote, the review boards often make decisions outside the meetings via electronic, written processes. Review board discussions on suggested funding decisions in the sessions therefore tend to focus on proposals involving controversial reviews. This involves rapporteurs from among the review board members being assigned to each proposal. These rapporteurs then present the research proposal in the sessions and assess the review position. The review board’s recommended decision is then formulated during a subsequent discussion. After formal quality assurance conducted by the DFG Head Office, this recommended decision then goes before the DFG Joint Committee or its nominated Grants Committee, which makes the final funding decision (How does the DFG decide whether a proposal is to receive funding?)

Researchers repeatedly collaborate, even across disciplinary boundaries. The review boards collaborate to ensure optimal assessment of such interdisciplinary proposals. Assessing these individual cases can for instance include members of other review boards being invited to attend sessions, or being requested to provide a written statement.

Review and assessment by review panels

The coordinated DFG procedures under which review panels review and assess proposals already entail members of the review boards being present during the on-site review. This assures that the same quality standards are applied in all DFG funding programmes. Each member of a review board can on average expect to assume this task once to twice a year. On-site reviews usually last one or two days and enable the review panel not only to talk directly to the applicants and their proposed project group, but also (depending on the procedure) to inspect the local research infrastructure.

Advice on strategic issues

Review board sessions do not just involve an assessment to make recommendations for funding decisions. The members also receive information on supplements to the funding programmes and can discuss strategic aspects concerning their review board. Because their remit also involves advising the DFG decision-making bodies on strategic issues relating to research funding. The review boards can also work in an interdisciplinary manner in this respect. The regular meetings of the review board spokespersons, for example, offer an opportunity for in-depth exchange.

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