New classifications of review panels for Natural and Engineering Sciences

As from 2021, we are restructuring the review panels within Natural and Engineering Sciences. The purpose is to achieve a more even distribution of applications between them.

“The difference in the number of applications each review panel were responsible for had become so large that it was a problem,” says Dag Hanstorp, who chairs the Scientific Council for Natural and Engineering Sciences at the Swedish Research Council.

While some of the 19 review panels had a great number of applications to deal with, there were some groups who received relatively few, he explains.

“Even if one panel consisted of many members, the workload on each member was large, and the amount of time needed for review panel meetings became very long.” In the smaller panels, the problem was instead that there were too few applications; numbers varied greatly from year to year.

The overall goal of the review now carried out by the Swedish Research Council was to reassess the allocation of research subjects between the review panels, in order to even out the workload. The previous allocation dated from 2012.

“Since that time, certain research fields have been added, while others have increased or decreased. We need to adapt our review panel structure accordingly, to ensure the quality of scientific assessment is maintained.”

How the process worked

The process of developing a new review panel structure began with the scientific council consulting the chairs of current and former review panels. Based on their input and detailed application statistics covering the last few years, a first proposal was developed.

“We then sent out a questionnaire to all grant applicants in natural and engineering sciences during the last four years – around 4 000 persons. We received 2 464 responses, which gave us an idea of how the applications would have been allocated between the new review panels. The aim is 80–100 applications per group,” says Dag Hanstorp.

Based on the questionnaire responses, the proposal was revised and checked off again with the chairs of the review panels.

List of each panel’s areas of responsibility

Mattias Marklund, the new Secretary General for Natural and Engineering Sciences as from December 2020, regards the new panel structure as part of the Swedish Research Council’s quality assurance work, and an important part of the process of supporting research of the highest scientific quality. Each review panel is described with a brief text and a list of its main areas of responsibility. Mattias Marklund underlines the importance of applicants reading this information.

“It provides guidance for researchers to find the panel that can make the most optimal assessment”.

The areas of responsibility listed are not an attempt at a complete scientific classification; nor do they reflect a prioritising of research fields.

“As always, some applications will be on the border between different review panels, and some research areas are relevant for more than one panel. Some areas are also included in several panels. We recommend that applicants choose the review panel that best represents the main scientific focus of the application,” says Mattias Marklund.

Review panels Natural and Engineering Sciences



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