Impartiality is one of AMRC's six principles of expert review, which form the foundations of rigour that guide our member’s expert review and funding processes.

Impartiality: charities must publish and adhere to a conflicts of interest policy, specific to research funding. This policy must clearly articulate the types of conflicts that may arise in research funding contexts and specify the actions that conflicted committee members should take so that they are not able to influence funding decisions. Additionally, where research funding is awarded to trustees of the charity, this must be done according to the Charity Commission rules in Annex A, AMRC's conflicts of interest guide, and the charity’s governing documents (e.g. articles of association) must permit this.

Impartiality helps avoid conflicts of interest and minimise bias (conscious or otherwise) that could compromise the integrity of the review process. It maintains trust and increases confidence in the outcomes and decisions made by the charity. 

Achieving impartiality

The following describes steps charities can take to meet the principle of impartiality.

  • Publish their research funding conflicts of interest policy accessibly online.

  • Use AMRC's conflicts of interest guide

  • Ask all expert reviewers to sign a copy of the conflicts of interest policy when they start their role.

  • Ask committee members to make a written declaration of interest at least every two years during their committee term.

  • Consider providing bias mitigation training for those involved in expert review.

  • Ensure expert reviewers are not present for the discussion or scoring of applications for which they have a conflict. This includes trustee members that sit on a research review committee.

  • Research review committees should comprise a significant number of experts not in receipt of research funding from the charity.

  • If the pool of experts available is small, heavily conflicted, lacking in diversity or appropriate range of experts, the charity should consider using experts from neighbouring fields. Sourcing the chair of the research review committee from an allied discipline area can help avoid or reduce conflicts of interest.

  • Where a member of the committee is applying for funding from that same committee, they should leave the room for the discussion of their application. If the committee chair is applying for funding, they should absent themselves from the whole meeting and should not appoint any reviewers. This should be the case regardless of the type of applicant they are listed as (e.g. lead or joint lead applicant, coinvestigator, collaborator etc.). If the chair must absent themselves, the committee vice-chair should take over chair responsibilities for that round.

  • Should the chair or other committee members have other conflicts of interest not related to funding (e.g. institutional, co-authorship, personal or professional relationships), they should declare these interests at the beginning of the meeting and leave the room for the discussion of the relevant item(s). If the chair absents themselves, the vice-chair should take over for these specific items.

Click the images below to view our other principles.