Points for Action when Reviewing Scientific Project Applications

The points for action for reviewers listed here are intended to support reviewers in identifying and countering their own unconscious biases, to allow them to make as unbiased decisions as possible. The recommendations are based on existing guidelines15 of research institutions and the EU-funded GEECCO project.

The following principles and steps are recommended for reviewing scientific performances:

  • Reflect on the criteria you apply for evaluating scientific excellence. Are women and men really equally likely to fulfil them?16
  • Consider the following questions:
    • Are underrepresented candidates subject to different expectations than equally qualified applicants from a majority group?
    • Is research from minority groups undervalued?
    • Is research from smaller research institutions undervalued?

  • Avoid phrasing your evaluation in a vague or subjective way without clearly stating your reasons.17
  • If you want to test if unconscious bias has an impact on your assessments, you may take the Implicit Association Test designed by Harvard University.
  • Take sufficient time for evaluating applications.18 
  • Finally, reflect self-critically if there is any unconscious bias which may influence your assessment. If necessary, make a re-assessment and adapt your review accordingly.

Sources (3)



15 Adapted based on the following guidelines: RS unconscious-bias-briefing-2015.pdf (st-andrews.ac.uk);
https://www.chairs-chaires.gc.ca/program-programme/equity-equite/bias/module-eng.pdf; GEECCO Project: Promoting gender equality in the evaluation process: Guideline for jury members, reviewers and research funding organizations’ employees

16 Women and men may have different output patterns: Mihaljević-Brandt et al. 2016; Huang et al. 2020; Nygaard and Bahgat 2018

17 Raymond 2013, Artiles Viera et al. 2017

18 Studies have shown that reviewers who had to complete other tasks or were otherwise distracted gave women lower scores than men in the same written performance reviews. Kaatz et al. 2014, Martell 1991