Thousands of international researchers, selected for their expertise, review all research proposals with regard to quality and degree of innovation. These reviews form the basis for the FWF’s independent and quality-oriented awarding process.

Research quality as the top priority – the FWF makes its funding decisions based on an international peer review process

The FWF offers all researchers and their ideas equal opportunities to receive funding. All of our funding decisions are based on international reviews, ensuring a fair and transparent selection process. Whether or not an application should be approved for funding depends on the results of the peer review. The FWF obtains nearly 5,000 reviews per year from around 65 countries, the majority of which come from leading research nations such as the USA, Great Britain, and Germany. Reviewers are selected on the recommendation of our Scientific Consultants, who have a high level of expertise in their respective fields. Applications are assigned to reviewers[KK1]  according to strict procedural rules to avoid any bias or conflicts of interest. Reviewers must be professionally active experts based outside of Austria, be at an academic level at least equal with the applicant, and have expertise in the field of the proposed research.

Review and evaluation criteria

Creating a level playing field for all applicants is a top priority. Proposals are evaluated by the reviewers based only on their potential to generate knowledge; non-scientific criteria such as age or gender play no role in the review process. At the same time, the FWF aims to include as broad a spectrum of research achievements as possible. Career breaks can also be taken into account, to help the FWF accommodate a wide diversity of career paths.

Generally speaking, reviewers are asked to focus on the following aspects of a proposal:

  • Research quality of the proposal
  • Degree of innovation and potential gain in knowledge
  • Research qualifications of all researchers involved
  • Feasibility

As a signatory to the Agreement on Reforming Research Assessment, the FWF also instructs reviewers to refrain from using journal-based metrics such as journal impact factors, Article Influence Scores, or the h-index when assessing research performance.

Any program-specific review criteria can be found in the application guidelines for each individual program.

Minimum number of reviews

The number of reviewers required depends on the funding program and/or the amount of funding requested. Generally speaking: The higher the amount of funding requested, the more reviews are required. For example, in the Principal Investigator Project program: Up to a requested amount of €450,000, the FWF decides on the basis of two reviews; three international reviews are required for proposals requesting funding of €450,000 to €650,000; for each additional increase of €200,000 in the amount of funding applied for, one additional review is required. Please refer to the respective application guidelines for program-specific information.

Strict compliance regulations to avoid conflicts of interest

Reviewers are selected by the Scientific Consultants, taking all possible conflicts of interest into account. This also applies to FWF staff members and the FWF Executive Board. The comprehensive rules on bias and the measures taken to avoid conflicts of interest are detailed in the General Principles of the FWF Decision-Making Procedure.

General Principles of the FWF Decision-Making Procedure

The General Principles of the FWF Decision-Making Procedure present the detailed process from submission of a proposal through to review and the final funding decision. The process outlined in this document is behind all of FWF’s programs. Some slight deviations from these General Principles are possible; these are described in the individual application guidelines where applicable.

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