Appendix - Reviewer profile and bias, composition of juries

1. Reviewer profile

  • Reviewers must be internationally established experts who are currently active in their respective research fields, and they should possess at least the same level of qualifications (in relation to their academic age) as the applicants.

  • The FWF only contacts reviewers who are based outside of Austria. In cases where reviewers have worked in Austria in the past, they are not to be contacted for reviews until they have been based outside of the country for at least five consecutive years. Any exceptions to this rule must be approved by the relevant FWF Vice-President.

  • A single reviewer should not be nominated more than twice per year. Exceptions to this rule may be made in the case of resubmissions.
  • The reviewers of a given application must not be from the same institution.

  • In the selection of reviewers, every effort should be made to ensure diversity in terms of age, regions and (where applicable) areas of expertise:

    • A suitable mix of younger and older reviewers is desirable.
    • On average, no more than 15% of reviewers should be from Germany/Switzerland each year (in the humanities: no more than 25%). Similarly, it is also important to avoid any excessive concentration of reviewers from a certain region or country.
    • In disciplines with very small research communities, efforts should be made to contact at least one reviewer from a related field or one reviewer more with general expertise.
    • The share of women among reviewers should average at least 30% per year. In addition, efforts must be made to ensure that the panel at SFB and DK hearings includes at least two women as reviewers.

2. Reviewer bias

2.1. General rules

Reviewers should refrain from assessing an application if a conflict of interest exists or could be perceived to exist. Specifically, reviewers are considered to be biased or to have a conflict of interest if:

  • they stand to gain professionally, financially or personally from the approval or rejection of the application;
  • they have published, cooperated, served on professional boards or other bodies involving frequent or regular meetings, or worked at the same research institution with the applicant (including persons involved in the project) in the last five years (see also below);
  • they have fundamental differences of scientific opinion with the applicant (including persons involved in the project);
  • any other close professional or personal ties exist between the reviewers and applicants  (including persons involved in the project) which may give rise to suspicions of bias or of conflicts of interest in the eyes of uninvolved third parties.

2.2 Special cases

Reviewers will generally not be considered biased under the following conditions:

  • Reviewers are generally not considered biased in cases where joint publications with applicants (including persons involved in the project) include more than 20 authors, unless the applicant (including persons involved in the project) or reviewer is the first/lead or last author of the publication (except in cases where publications list authors in alphabetical order due to equivalent contributions).
  • Reviewers are generally not considered biased in cases where they have published works in the same edited volumes or proceedings as the applicant (or persons involved in the project). This does not apply to scholarly tributes (Festschriften) in which the applicants (or persons involved in the project) or reviewers were editors or laureates.
  • Reviewers are generally not considered biased in cases where they have produced joint publications with national or international cooperation partners associated with the applicant (or persons involved in the project).
  • In cases where an application is revised and resubmitted, those reviewers from the previous round who provided substantial and constructive suggestions and criticism should generally be contacted again. In any case, however, new reviewers are also required for resubmissions.

Applicants are not to be asked to name reviewers for their applications. Should they do so, these suggestions are to be disregarded. 

The enclosures to the applications may contain a list of undesired reviewers (“negative list”). This means that applicants may name a maximum of three potential reviewers who are believed to have possible biases and should be excluded from the review process. The FWF Executive Board will generally fulfil such requests. In cases where an application is resubmitted, the negative list may include reviewers of the previous version of the application. (In exceptional cases, Reporters may have the FWF Office request a list of desirable reviewers from the applicant. In cases where reviewers from this “positive list” assess an application, this must be noted in the meeting documents. In any case, only one review may be obtained from a reviewer on this list.)

The FWF assumes that, in the interest of good scientific practice, reviewers will also refrain from assessing applications and notify the FWF in cases which are not explicitly covered by the FWF’s rules regarding bias. Reviewers should always refrain from assessing an application in cases of doubt or borderline cases.

Institutions which handle the review process on behalf of the FWF (such as publishers in the Stand-Alone Publications programme) are to consult the FWF in any cases of doubt or borderline cases.



3. Composition of juries and similar bodies (e.g. review boards)

FWF juries are decision-making bodies which comprise outstanding international experts and are established for specific programmes (such as the START programme, Wittgenstein Award, PEEK and KLIF programmes). On the basis of external reviews, these experts submit recommendations to the FWF Board by ranking the competing applications. The following rules apply to these bodies:

  • Jury members must be internationally recognised, leading scientists and researchers in their respective fields who also (a) have a broader perspective beyond the boundaries of their field and (b) possess appropriate experience with similar competitive selection procedures.
  • Juries generally comprise scientists and researchers based at research institutions outside of Austria. Persons who have worked in Austria in the past may not become jury members until they have been based outside of Austria for at least five consecutive years.
  • At least one third of the members of these bodies should be women, and every effort should be made to ensure a maximum of diversity in terms of regions and institutions.
  • In handling applications, jury members are subject to the same rules regarding bias and conflicts of interest as FWF Board members and reviewers. In cases of bias, the relevant jury member(s) does (do) not participate in the discussion of the application in question; those members are required to leave the meeting room while the jury deliberates on the application.
  • Jury members are generally appointed for a term of three years, after which their term may be extended twice (maximum total: 9 years). At the same time, it is necessary to ensure that the composition of a jury does not remain the same for more than six years.