A conflict of interest is defined as any financial, personal, professional or institutional interest or connection of any individual peer reviewer which may, if undeclared, expose Sarcoma UK or the recommendations of its funding committees open to accusations of bias and inappropriate influence in peer review or assessment, funding recommendations or scientific advice to Sarcoma UK.
All competitive research applications will be peer reviewed by either an internal or external reviewer. For these purposes, the Grant Review Panel (GRP) and its constituent members are classified as internal reviewers and external are the wider research and clinical community. Grants submitted to Sarcoma UK are also reviewed by people with personal experience of sarcoma (termed lay reviewers). External lay reviewers are members of the sarcoma patient community who are not members of the Grant Review Panel, who are considered internal reviewers.
In line with the Association of Medical Research Charities’ guidelines, any research application with a financial value over £25,000 per annum will be assessed by at least two external reviewers before being reviewed by members of the GRP. The external reviewers’ comments will be used by the GRP in any decision-making process.
External peer and lay reviewers will be sent this Conflict of Interest Policy and asked to declare any interest before committing to review a project.
Examples of conflicts of interest for external scientific reviewers
a. Financial conflict: anyone who has a direct or indirect financial interest with a grant application submitted to Sarcoma UK.
b. Applicant and co-applicant(s) conflict: anyone listed as main applicant or co-applicant on a grant application submitted to Sarcoma UK. Anyone listed as a collaborator on a grant application submitted to Sarcoma UK
c. Collaborator(s) conflict: anyone listed as a collaborator or having recently collaborated with the listed main applicant and/or co-applicant(s) in any given grant application submitted to Sarcoma UK. If an external reviewer has published work with the main and/or co-applicant within the last five years, this is also considered a conflict.
d. Same institution conflict: anyone working in the same institution as the main applicant or co-applicant(s) listed on a grant application submitted to Sarcoma UK at the time they are requested to peer review the application. Anyone working in the same institution as a collaborator on an application is not considered conflicted due to the highly collaborative nature of sarcoma as a rare disease research field.
e. Competition conflict: anyone who has competitive interest with a grant application submitted to Sarcoma UK that may result in a strong decision bias during the time of the completion of their review.
Examples of conflicts of interest for lay reviewers
a. Financial conflict: anyone who has a financial or commercial interest in a grant application submitted to Sarcoma UK
b. Involvement conflict: anyone who was involved in developing any given application, for instance as a member of a patient panel
c. Patient conflict: where a lead or co-applicant on any given application was involved in the treatment of a given reviewer, or their friend/family member
This is not an exhaustive list; other conflicts of interest not listed here may arise. Sarcoma UK asks potential peer and lay reviewers to use their judgement and declare a conflict of interest they feel may impact their ability to fairly and comprehensively review given a grant application.
Identification and resolution of conflicts of interest
It is up to the reviewer to decide whether a conflict of interest could exist, and if so, to declare the conflict. Consideration must be given to how things could appear to others and, in all cases, individuals should err on the side of caution, declaring an interest if there is any possibility that a conflict of interest may exist.
If a conflict is identified, the reviewer concerned should declare this to Sarcoma UK’s research team as soon as possible. They may be excluded from reviewing that particular grant application, but may review another application for the same round on which they are not conflicted.