Guidelines for Moderators and Reviewers

Instruct Operations Team

Proposers might find it useful to understand the Guidelines below which are followed by Moderators and Reviewers when they assess a proposal submitted to Instruct.

Guidelines for Moderators:

Moderators are bound to respect the confidentiality of information provided in an Instruct proposal. Moderators must not disclose or otherwise exploit this confidential information for any purpose.

Moderators should assess proposals according to the following initial criteria:

  • Eligibility for Instruct funding support: Proposals must originate from an Instruct member country
  • Field of research and request for platform access: The research should fall within the broad field of structural cell biology and be well matched to the infrastructure provided through Instruct.

Moderators should choose a total of three reviewers for each proposal; one internal reviewer and two external reviewers. Reviewers should be appointed and confirmed as promptly as possible. The aim is to provide a decision to the proposer within 2 weeks of submission.

When the reviews have been returned, the Moderator should then action one of three outcomes:

Approval; Revision; Rejection.

The Moderator may comment on the proposal outcome including advice on next steps for the proposer. The proposer will receive all three reviewers’ comments, their scores and the Moderator’s comments.

Appeals: If the proposer appeals the review decision, the Moderator, with the help of the Instruct Secretary, will manage the revision process which may require referral to the Access Committee. The Moderator will have discretion to revise the decision where the score is 3-5, but should refer the appeal to the Access Committee where the original score is 0-2. The Moderator may refer back to the reviewers at any time for help in this process. The Moderator (with the help of the Secretary) will keep the proposer informed of the process and outcome of the appeal.

The Moderator may invite the proposer to resubmit a revised proposal, and may provide guidance on how to improve the proposal. The moderator may contact the proposer by selecting button that says 'Contact Applicant'. The Instruct office is willing to reconsider revised proposals at any time.

Guidelines for Reviewers:

Reviewers are bound to respect the confidentiality of information provided in an Instruct proposal. Moderators must not disclose or otherwise exploit this confidential information for any purpose.

Instruct will provide European researchers with access to instrumentation and expertise for integrated structural biology through its multi-site infrastructure, with the aim to facilitate scientists in addressing biological problems that have proven intractable or difficult with more routine technological approaches. All proposals will be evaluated by three reviewers (one internal to Instruct and two external) and must be accepted by the services/technologies nominated in the proposal. A decision by the reviewers on the acceptance of a proposal is without prejudice to the right of a service/technology to decline access on reasonable grounds (including conflict of interest, capacity limitations, financial limitations) and in accordance with the terms of the relevant Centre Agreement. All service/technologies have a local right of veto for access.

Reviewers should score proposals according to the following criteria: Reviews should be returned within 1 week.

1. Field and scope of research (score 1= suitable field of study; 0 = not suitable for Instruct: threshold = 1/1)

The subject category of the proposal should fall within structural cell biology. This may include some functional work that may or may not be undertaken at an Instruct Centre. The proposals may be of two types:

  • Single access proposal - requests access for a single experiment to a single platform facility which is unavailable in the proposer’s national facilities.
  • Integrated access proposal – proposes a project involving an integrated experimental approach with more than 2 service/technology requested for access. These proposals may span several months and include some flexibility in planning the order and scale of platform access.

The work proposed should have elements that are ambitious and innovative or tackle difficult problems with a fresh approach. Routine service access is not normally acceptable.

2. Impact of the research (score 3 = high impact; 2 = moderate impact; 1 = low impact; 0 = not worthy of Instruct support: threshold=2/3)

In many cases, the work proposed will be part of an existing experimental project which has been scientifically peer-reviewed by an external national or international funding body. It is not the intention of Instruct to duplicate this review process. However, an evaluation of the impact of the proposed work will help to prioritise proposals in cases where platform capacity or funding might be limited.

3. Preliminary data and Plan B (score 3 = good preliminary data available and plan B in place; score 2 = some further data needed, plan B in place; score 1 = some further data needed and no plan B; score 0 = data not provided or not sufficient: threshold = 2/3.

Proposals should contain sufficient preliminary data to show that the experimental work is feasible: e.g. that material is of sufficient quality and quantity for requested technologies; that there is data supporting the scientific approach; that there are no safety or ethical issues preventing access.

Where a multi-service/technology project is proposed, some flexibility in the approach to take account of poor outcome should be included. The Reviewer should make a judgement about whether the nominated service/technology location(s) is optimal for the objectives and may offer advice on other choices.

4. Strengths and weaknesses (score 1 = balance on strengths; score 0 = balance on weaknesses: threshold = 1/1)

The strengths and weaknesses of the proposal should be evaluated, including a judgement on whether the service/technologies requested are optimal for achieving the best experimental outcome. Suggestions on other platforms or approaches may be made.

Maximum score = 8

Threshold score for acceptance = 6

Revision required = scores 3-5

Rejected = scores 0-2

The Moderator will make both the anonymised scores and the reviewers’ comments available to the proposer when feedback on the decision is given.

Appeals: If the proposer wishes to appeal the decision from the Moderator, he/she must contact the Moderator directly in the first instance and explain the reasons for appeal. The Moderator will decide whether the decision can be revised without referral back to the reviewers or whether it requires referral to reviewers and/or the Access Committee. The Moderator will keep the proposer informed of the process and outcome of the appeal.

Reporting: After approval, the Secretary will facilitate the access process to each service/technology, ensuring that the funding options are clear. Access reports must be logged via the website by the proposer after completion of the work at each service/technology; these will also be monitored by the Secretary and non-completion will preclude the proposer from further approval for access to Instruct infrastructure.

Help: Moderators and Reviewers may contact for help with the on-line review process. Specifically, Moderator or Reviewer may wish to take advice from the requested service/technology(ies) about technical feasibility of the work proposed. This can be done directly (bearing in mind issues of confidentiality of the proposed work) or through the Secretary.