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Peer Review at the DFG.
Researching into Expert Panels: the example of the Collaborative Research Centers (SFBs)

Taking the research carried out on “Peer Review in Research Funding” further, the project concentrates on expert panel evaluation. The overall question posed is: What affects decision-making processes when research programs are evaluated by expert panels? Surprisingly little research was so far devoted to this question. Most of the literature on peer review concentrates on the issue whether editorial peer review lives up to expectations. Peer review of research applications has received much less attention. Very little is known about expert panel evaluation, even though more and more research grants worldwide are distributed based on decisions of review committees. The reasons for this lack of interest might be methodical difficulties and particularly given problems to observe expert panels (not the least due to confidentiality issues). Nevertheless, studies are required which analyze the complex aspects of committee peer review, such as the bases of peer judgements and the group dynamics of peer panels.
The project “Peer Review at the DFG” looks into the peer review procedure of the Collaborative Research Centers, called Sonderforschungsbereiche (short: SFB). SFBs enable scientists and academics to form interdisciplinary communities that engage in long-term research, for up to twelve years, on a jointly selected topic. Today, the German Research Foundation (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, DFG) provides more than 530 million Euros per year to support a total of 265 projects. The key objective of the program is to promote excellent research on an ambitious topic by focusing resources at the host university.

The aim of the project „Peer Review at the DFG. Researching into Expert Panels: the example of the Collaborative Research Centers (SFBs)” is, on the one hand, to provide information about strengths and weaknesses of the SFB-peer review process and, on the other hand, to contribute to the research on committee peer review. Data sources are direct observation of panel meetings, interviews with panel members and applicants, expert interviews with DFG-personnel and study of review documents.

Duration: November 2008 – June 2014
Funding: DFG
Contact person: Prof. Dr. Martin Reinhart