NHMRC Public Consultations

Skip Navigation and go to Content
Visit NHMRC website

Public Consultation on the NHMRC Draft Principles of Peer Review submission

This submission reflects the views of
Organisation Name: 
Cancer Council Victoria
Please identify the best term to describe the Organisation: 
Biomedical research institute / organisation
Personal Details
General Comments

Cancer Council Victoria is both a research institution and a research funding body.  This submission is made on behalf of research program leaders employed by the Cancer Council and is based on their collective experience as reviewers of research internationally as well as within the NHMRC systems over many years – as Grant Review Panel members and assessors.


The Draft Principles of Peer Review refer in several places to the need for evaluation of applications to be conducted by individuals who have appropriate expertise, but no unacceptable conflict of interest.  Strict interpretation of conflict of interest means that, in Australia, in many fields of research, the experts most qualified as reviewers are excluded from the review process.


It is proposed that the rules covering conflict might be eased to address this problem.


If conflicts of interest for assessors who provide reports, but are not subsequently part of the decision making process, are treated less stringently than those of actual GRP members, it should be possible to bring a higher level of content expertise to the review process. 


Conflicts would be declared as part of the assessment so that GRP members may be alert to any bias.  Assessors, having declared potential conflicts will be reminded that their assessments must be accurate and honest, with all claims capable of being verified.  With a greater level of content expertise provided in the assessments, there should be less need for the GRP to request verbal input from conflicted panel members who should rightly not contribute in any way to the decision process.


This approach would increase both the expertise and the transparency of the review process.


Prepared by Clare Riglar, Acting Head, Research Management Unit, in consultation with

Professor Graham Giles, Professor Ron Borland, Professor Melanie Wakefield and Woody Macpherson RAO, Cancer Council Victoria.

Page reviewed: 19 February, 2013