Code of Practice

Code of Practice for consideration of applications for research funding made to the British Academy

This Code of Practice describes the standards of transparency by which the British Academy abides in administering applications for research awards and other proposals for support, and embodies the principles of equity, integrity and confidentiality for all who are involved in the assessment of proposals. The Code is intended to act as guidance to assessors in discharging the responsibilities placed on them in assessing proposals, and sets out the proper conduct expected of them.

Information for applicants

  1. Application procedures For each of its schemes for research awards, the Academy issues guidelines on the information to be supplied by applicants in support of bids for funds, details of the criteria against which the application will be assessed, and the process and timescale for assessment of the application.
  2. Data Protection Act Applicants are required to submit the application formally online to indicate that the information provided therein is, to the best of their knowledge, complete and accurate. The British Academy is compliant with the GDPR and adheres to the principles of the Data Protection Act 2018. Applicants should be aware that information they provide will be stored and circulated as necessary for the assessment procedures to be followed. Successful applicants should be aware that the information they provide on the application form may be copied to the relevant authorised officer in their employing institution as necessary for the award procedures to be followed, and information on the status of their award may be made available to the relevant authorised officer in their employing institution by the Academy as necessary for the conditions of award to be fulfilled. In cases where the principal output from the project is the creation of a digital resource, applicants should be aware that details of the project, and contact details of the principal applicant, may be passed to the relevant national Data Services providers for evaluation or contact purposes. Application forms will be retained for ten years in the case of successful applications, and five years in the case of unsuccessful applications, and may be consulted by the Academy in the event of future applications being submitted. Details of award holders (including name, institution, project details and amount of award) will be used to compile published lists of award-holders which will be made available on the Internet, and to produce statistical and historical information on Academy awards. Queries submitted under the terms of the Data Protection Act about the processing of personal data should be addressed to the Academy's Data Protection Officer. Submitting the online application form constitutes the applicant's agreement to all terms, conditions, and notices contained in the Notes for Applicants.
  3. Data monitoring Personal information provided by applicants will be used for monitoring and statistical purposes only, and at no stage will it form any part of the assessment process.
  4. Equal opportunities The British Academy is committed to a policy of equal opportunities in that applicants will receive equal treatment, regardless of race, colour, religion, gender, age (except where the conditions of the scheme specify otherwise) or disability.
  5. Ethics policy The Academy requires the research it funds to be conducted in an ethical manner. The following considerations apply to all proposals: accurate reporting of findings and a commitment to enabling others to replicate results where possible; fair dealing in respect of other researchers and their intellectual property; proper employment conditions for research staff having respect for the provisions of the 'Concordat for Contract Research Staff' and subsequent amendments; honesty to research staff and students about the purpose, methods and intended and possible use of the research and any risks involved; confidentiality of information supplied by research subjects and anonymity of respondents (unless otherwise agreed with research subjects and respondents); and independence and impartiality of researchers to the subject of the research. Additionally, proposals may raise one or more of the following considerations: the involvement of human participants; the involvement of human remains (e.g. traceable to living descendants); the use of non-human animals; destructive analysis of historic artefacts; research that may result in damage to the natural or historic environment; and the use of sensitive social, economic or political data. Wherever necessary, appropriate consent should be obtained from or on behalf of participants or others affected by the research. Applicants should indicate whether their proposed research raises any special ethical issues, and whether their application has been approved by the institution's Research Ethics Committee or other relevant authority. Independent researchers without access to formal ethical scrutiny and approval should briefly describe any special ethical issues, and explain how they will be addressed.
  6. Assessment process All applications are judged on their academic merit through a stringent process of peer review by appropriate experts. Recommendations are passed to the relevant awarding committee for final decision on awards.
  7. Disclosure The Academy publishes the terms of reference and membership of awards committees in relevant publications and on the Academy's web site.
  8. Outcome of applications Applicants are informed by email of the outcome of their application. Feedback is not provided on applications, except in cases where external evaluation may have been sought. Applicants are informed in the notes of guidance whether feedback can be expected as a feature of the scheme. The Academy is regretfully unable to enter into correspondence concerning the decision of the awarding committee.
  9. Conditions of awards Recipients of awards are made aware of the regulations governing the scheme in which they have been successful and are required to adhere to those regulations.
  10. Appeals The competition for research awards is intense and many high quality applications may not receive support. All applications receive careful scrutiny by the assessors, in the context of competing claims on available funding. Appeals may therefore not be made against the academic judgement of the Academy's assessors, panels, or Committees. The sole ground on which an appeal may be made is one of improper procedure. Anyone wishing to make an appeal against a decision should write to the Chief Executive of the Academy no later than two months after the result of the competition is announced, citing the specific decision and setting out clearly the substantive basis of the appeal. Only applicants themselves may appeal, though they may include supporting letters as relevant. The Chief Executive will respond in writing within 30 days. There are two possible grounds for one further stage of appeal: either improper procedure in the investigation of the original appeal; or the availability of substantial relevant information which for good reason was not made known to the Chief Executive at the time of the investigation. Any such further appeals should be directed to the President of the Academy.

Information for assessors

11. Confidentiality Those who undertake the assessment of applications are required to give an undertaking that all information which they acquire in the discharge of their duties be kept confidential and not be transmitted to any persons other than in accordance with the prescribed procedures for the selection process. All reasonable steps must be taken to ensure that such information is kept in a secure place and in due course disposed of in a secure fashion (or returned to the Academy). Information provided to assessors in an application for funding may only be used for the purposes of evaluating the proposal in accordance with the Academy's guidelines.

12. Conflict of interest Those who undertake the responsibility of assessing applications for funds, either in writing or through membership of awards committees, are required to declare actual or potential conflicts of interest and observe the following guidelines:

  • References Assessors shall not participate in the evaluation of any particular application for which they have acted as a referee.
  • Institutional affiliation Assessors shall not participate in the evaluation of any proposal emanating from their own institution.
  • Other connections Where an application involves a former pupil, close colleague or co-researcher, a family member, or a person with whom there is or has been a current or prior relationship, assessors are required to declare any conflict of interest to the relevant Academy officer so that the proposal can be redirected (in the case of research grants), and assessors, including those involved in the assessment of research posts, shall abstain from participating in the evaluation of that particular proposal.
  • Assessors as applicants Fellows who wish to apply for Academy support during the period in which they are serving in any capacity as an assessor must abstain from any involvement in the competition to which they are applying, that is, they may not assess or comment or vote on any application in that round of the competition.

If assessors are unsure whether their ability to assess a proposal is compromised in any way, they should inform the office of the relevant circumstances so that guidance can be sought on individual cases. A log of such incidents shall be retained for the regular scrutiny of the Academy's Research Committee.

13. Fair evaluation Assessors are normally drawn from subject-specific experts within the Academy's Fellowship, and it is expected that they will be able to evaluate the proposals sent to them. In cases where individual assessors feel unable to offer an informed view on a proposal, they may request that papers be sent confidentially to other members of the Fellowship so that they may consult about the merits of the proposal. In exceptional circumstances, assessors may request that papers be sent confidentially outside the Fellowship, to ensure that projects on the margins of the Academy's subject remit are properly and scrupulously evaluated. In all cases, assessors must submit the request for additional assessment through the office to ensure that the chosen advisers receive the necessary instructions about assessment criteria particular to the relevant scheme, and a copy of this Code of Practice. Any supplementary advisers are required to abide by its provisions.

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