Competitive Review Process & Terms

Conflict of Interest, Confidentiality, and Professional Conduct in a Competitive Review

The essence of competitive review of a proposal or application is fair and objective assessment based solely on criteria that are selected to identify merit and achievement. The success of the review committee in performing its functions depends upon the effectiveness of its decision-making processes. If judgments are warped or prejudiced because of conflicting interests, that effectiveness is compromised. Review committees at the University of Alaska Anchorage must earn the confidence of its community of faculty and scholars, staff, and students, as well as the public outside the institution, in the integrity, effectiveness, and evenhandedness of its decision-making processes. They will not do so if those processes are seen to be compromised by conflicts of interests.

A conflict of interests is a clash between a reviewer’s concern for objectivity and their private interests and allegiances. This is particularly exacerbated in those cases where we are asked to judge the work of colleagues within our own campus. Some conflicts of interest would so warp the performance of a review committee or damage its credibility that they simply cannot be allowed to occur. Most of these are associated with financial or personal interests, and are explicitly addressed by State and University ethical standards. These either absolutely prohibit you from doing certain things that could give rise to such conflicts or disqualify you from participating in matters where you have a potentially serious conflict. 

Not all conflicts of interests are so serious and clear that flat prohibition or disqualifications are appropriate. Many conflicts, though real, are subtle, even remote. The seriousness of others so depends on circumstances of the particular case that unvarying rules would be impractical.

The committee receives proposals in confidence and protects the confidentiality of their contents. For this reason, you must not copy, quote, or otherwise use or disclose to anyone any material from any proposal you are asked to review. This includes the name of applicant, the title of the proposal, or its subject. If you believe a colleague can make a substantial contribution to the review, you must obtain permission from the chair of the committee before disclosing either the contents of the proposal or the name of any applicant or principal investigator.

We will keep reviews and the identity of reviewer of specific proposals confidential to the maximum extent possible, except that we will send to the applicants reviews of their own proposals without the name of the reviewer or other identifying information. Members of a review committee must respect the confidentiality of all applicants and of other reviewers. Reviewers must not disclose the identity of other reviewers, the relative assessments or rankings of proposals, or other details about the peer review of proposals.

Conflict of Interests for Members of Review Committees

Personal affiliations with an applicant
A reviewer will have a conflict if they have:

  • a business or professional partnership with the applicant;
  • a known family relationship covered by State and University ethical standards;
  • Other relationships, such as close personal friendship, that might tend to affect judgment or be seen as doing so by a reasonable person familiar with the relationship.

A report offering guidance and 19 guiding principals to help investigators address conflict-of-interest challenges can be viewed here.

Competitive Review Terms:

Review Policy. It is our standard policy that the procedure for selecting proposals for support be carried out in accordance with the highest standards of scientific quality and responsibility. In addition, the Office of Research considers the process of merit review to be an integral component of facilitating and enhancing research, scholarship, and creative activity at UAA.

Mission. The review panels, through the process of merit review, select proposals to be recommended for an award. In general, the panels’ recommendations are presented in three broad categories: Category A – proposals of superior quality, the top five percent (5%); Category B – meritorious proposals, the next 15% - 20%; and Category C – lower-ranked proposals, which will be declined funding. Within these categories, and especially in Category B, proposals must be rank-ordered by the panel. In addition, review panelists will comment on aspects of the proposed work, including the budget, as guided by the Request for Proposals (RFP) and other guidelines.

Duties. Electronic copies of proposals and any other relevant materials will be sent to panelists by the Office of Research. Prior to the panel’s meeting, each panelist must divide the proposals into Categories A, B, and C and return these rankings to the Office of Research. At the panel meeting, panelists will discuss their evaluations, calibrate rankings, and develop recommendations for grouping all the proposals into the three priority categories and for ranking them individually within those categories.

Conflict of Interest. All panelists, staff of Office of Research, and any other administrative staff are required strictly to follow the statement of Conflict-of-Interest and Professional Conduct.

Confidentiality. All proposals in a review competition are strictly confidential and may not be distributed for any reason by panel reviewers. Discussion of any aspect of the work of review panels outside of the panel meetings is strictly forbidden. The Office of Research will treat review forms as strictly confidential and will not release them; however, we will prepare anonymous summaries of these forms for the information of the author of the associated proposals.

Evaluation Criteria. The evaluation criteria published with each RFP are to be used in reviewing proposals. Some are specific to each RFP and competition; two are common to every competition, Performance Excellence and Intrinsic Merit. These serve as the primary and most important criteria and must be met by all projects; the others serve as supplementary criteria, as appropriate to the nature of each project.

Evaluation Procedures: All reviewers must record their evaluation of each proposal on a Reviewer Rating form. All reviewers are strongly encouraged to comment substantively on each applicable criterion on the form. Reviewers must record a single, overall grade for the proposal at the bottom of the form. These grades are used only as an initial means of ranking; final ranking will result after careful deliberation of all proposals by all panelists assembled together in the review panel meeting.