Independence 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.

Independence: charities must take account of advice provided by experts who are independent of the charity’s administrative staff and trustees. 

Sourcing expert advice from voices independent of the charity ensures that charity’s funding decisions are informed by objective views, uninfluenced by their historical context, internal politics, or relationships with trustees or staff.

Achieving independence

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

  • Internal staff must not review scientific applications for funding or be members of research review committees. It is important that charity staff do not review scientific applications for funding to avoid real or perceived bias influencing who and what projects are funded and to allow sufficient independent oversight of the charities’ funding processes. However, where they have sufficient and relevant expertise, internal staff can review non-scientific funding applications e.g. travel grants or policy research.

  • If using triage, ensure that triage processes are undertaken by those with appropriate expertise. Where triage is based on eligibility, strategic fit, or completeness of an application, this may be undertaken by charity staff. Where triage is based on research quality, it should be undertaken by external experts e.g. via a specific triage panel or members of the research review committee.

  • Trustees can conduct reviews and/or sit on a research review committee if they have relevant and valuable expertise. However, trustees should not be over-represented on the committee. Based on the example of a fixed research review committee of minimum five experts, AMRC recommends that no more than two trustees serve on the committee, unless there are strong justifications to support having more. In such cases, charities should contact the AMRC to discuss these.

  • Avoid having a trustee of the charity chairing the research review committee(s), as this reduces the committee’s independence.

  • Have clear routes of communication between the charity’s trustees and the research review committee(s). Ensure trustees are aware of the funding recommendations made by the research review committee(s)(s) as well as its membership. This could be achieved, for example, by presenting a paper outlining the funding recommendations made by the committee at a trustee meeting or by inviting the chair of the research review committee(s) to attend trustee meetings and report on the committee’s activity. In some cases, this is not appropriate or feasible and the role may be undertaken by senior charity staff.

Click the images below to view our other principles.