Expert Panel guidelines

The role of the IRF Expert Panels is to review applications to the IRF based on the scientific value of the projects, the applicants' qualifications to carry out the project, suitability of the research facilities, and the likelihood of the project resulting in measurable results and gains. The Expert Panels establish a ranking list based on the expert evaluations, and finalize each application review with a written report.  


Through the online evaluation system (see below), Expert Panel members get access to applications along with abstracts and names of applicants. The Expert Panel members start with marking which applications lie within their key expertise, and which applications they cannot review due to conflict of interest. The applications received by the Expert Panel are then divided among panel members. Each application is assigned to three Readers within the Expert Panel, one of them also as Editor, but all members are encouraged to review all applications assigned to their respective Expert Panels.

The Editor is responsible for finding external reviewers that are not working in Iceland to assess the application, at least two experts for Project Grant applications and Postdoctoral Fellowship applications, and three experts for applications for Grants of Excellence. Doctoral Student Grant applications are only reviewed in the panel, not by external reviewers. The selection of external reviewers is based on the relevant scientist's area of expertise and scientific merits according to professional websites and citation databases.  The Editor must make sure that there is no conflict of interest between reviewers and applicants. External reviewers must then confirm that there is no conflict of interest. Applicants have an opportunity to specify on the application form which experts should not be involved in the assessment of the application and give the reasons for this. Experts whom applicants have identified in their application as “Non-preferred reviewers” are not to be contacted. 

When an external reviewer has agreed on reviewing an application, the Expert Panel member  provides the external reviewer with access to a web portal, with all necessary information regarding the assessment process, through the link "Add reviewers...". The external review involves an in-depth reading of the application. When external reviewers have submitted their evaluations and the three Readers/Editor on the Expert Panel have drafted their reviews, the Expert Panel meets at the Icelandic Centre for Research to discuss all applications and deliberate on rankings. At Expert Panel meetings, there is a discussion of applications, external reviews and reviews by the Expert Panel and applications are graded and ranked in terms of quality. After meetings, the Editor finalizes the Expert Panel's reviews and the chair of the Expert Panel submits the reviews into the Icelandic Centre for Research's evaluation system. Applicants receive the Expert Panel review when the IRF Board has decided the grant allocations for the year. 


Each panel member gets access to IRF's online evaluation system where all proposals to the panel and relevant documents can be viewed. Expert Panel members do not get access to grant applications where they have conflict of interest.

A list of all the applications submitted to an Expert Panel is available under Applications > Overview (to left on the red ribbon at top of the page). To get to an Application details page, the number of the application is selected.

The Application details page contains the number and the name of the application, names of all applicants, grant type, expert panel, non-preferred reviewers, names of panel members with conflict of interest, an abstract, links to all files related to the application and information on external reviewers, Readers and Editor. All material relevant to the application can be accessed from this page.

The web-based Readers and Editors evaluation sheets are entered by selecting the pen in front of the Readers'/Editor's name. 

More details can be found under Guidelines in the online evaluation system.

Table 1. Grades awarded by Expert Panels.

Grade Impact
A1 Outstanding application with essentially no weaknesses
A2 Very strong application with negligible weaknesses
A3Strong application with some minor weaknesses
Application with one or more limiting weakness. 
C Application with major weaknesses or not eligible for this fund


Before the Expert Panel meeting
The Editor drafts a summary evaluation of the strengths and weaknesses of the proposals he/she is responsible for, based on evaluations from panel members and the submitted external reviews.

At the Expert Panel meeting

During the Expert Panel meetings, the Editors present their respective applications, briefly introduce the background of the external reviewers, present the external reviewers' reports, and finally offer their own assessment of the respective applications. Reports shall be constructive and arranged in such manner as to be of optimal use to the applicant. The two Readers then provide their comments and the whole panel discusses the review and awards a grade (see table 1). Expert Panel members who have recused themselves due to conflicts of interest with regard to an application shall leave the meeting when the relevant application is discussed, and this shall be entered into the minutes by the expert staff member from the Icelandic Center for Research assigned to the panel. After discussing all applications, each Expert Panel establishes a ranking list of applications based on the final grades given by the panel. A separate ranking list for each grant type is prepared, and applications are ranked into three categories: A (A1-A3), B and C. Sub-category A1 is reserved for top applications only. Generally, less than 5% of applications are likely to fulfill the requirements set for grade A1. In Expert Panel meetings, Expert Panel reviews are finalized. 

After the meeting

The chair of the Expert Panel confirms the final assessment of the Expert Panel in the online rating system of the Icelandic Centre for Research.  External reviews received after the Expert Panel meetings and before the final IRF Board meeting are discussed by the panel members via email, and the final grade is confirmed or altered based on the outcome of those discussions. 


Members of the IRF Board, members of Expert Panels, external reviewers, IRF expert staff and others handling applications to the IRF are bound by strict confidentiality. Applications, including all enclosed materials and review sheets are considered confidential information. The confidential information is not to be used for any other purpose than the review process and may not be disclosed, published or otherwise made available to a third party. No copies of any confidential information shall be made available in any format, except for purposes of review. After completion of the review, a copy of the application and review documents will be stored in the electronic registry of the Icelandic Centre for Research, and all other confidential information shall be destroyed. IRF Expert Panel members understand and acknowledge that any disclosure or misappropriation of any of this confidential information may cause the owner irreparable harm. The owner of the confidential information has the right to apply to a court of competent jurisdiction for specific performance and/or an order restraining and enjoining any such further disclosure or breach and for such other relief as the owner shall deem appropriate. Such right of ownership is in addition to the remedies otherwise available to registered owners or such parties that derive rights from the actual owner. 


In the event of conflict of interest, external reviewers, Expert Panel members and Board members must recuse themselves from assessment of an application. External reviewers cannot undertake to assess the relevant application and Expert Panel members and Board members must recuse themselves from meetings where the relevant application is discussed and a decision is reached regarding funding. Their absence in that case shall be documented in meeting minutes. 

The following items lead to disqualification of external reviewers, Expert Panel members and Board members of the IRF: 

  • General rules on conflict of interest as listed in the Administration Procedure Act (no. 37/1993). 
  • If an Expert Panel member, Board member or external reviewer is a spouse, close relative or close friend of the applicant.
  • Personal conflicts exists between a panel member, Board member or external reviewer and an applicant. 
  • If an external reviewer, Expert Panel member or Board member is in professional competition with the applicant.  

  • Panel members can neither be principal investigators of an application to the IRF nor co-applicants of an application in the Expert Panel of which they are a member. 

  • External reviewers cannot be party to an IRF application in the same year that they serve as external reviewers

  • If a Board member is a participant in an application, the Board member must resign from his/her role in discussing the allocation of grants in the relevant grant year and a deputy board member will take his/her place.  

If the relevant party is an employee of an institution or company and an application from other employees of the same institution or company is under discussion, the closeness of the relationship with employees that are involved with the project, or how close the relationship is with the directors of the relevant institution, must be assessed. This type of relationship does not automatically lead to disqualification.   

Board members, Expert Panel members and external reviewers are responsible for identifying circumstances that might create a conflict of interest that would influence their judgment of applications submitted to the IRF.

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