Consortia/University Independent Peer Review process


The Research Governance Framework states that all health/social care research must be peer reviewed (assessing the quality of a research proposal or protocol).

There are already many systems in place for externally funded projects to be peer reviewed. However, for own account research, pilot, student projects and externally funded research from sources where award of funding does not include sufficient independent review of methodology, the Principal Investigator is responsible for submitting the project for independent expert review.

Furthermore, to ensure compliance with the Research Governance Framework and adherence to GAfREC guidance, Research Ethics Committees will expect Principal Investigators to provide evidence of peer review.

Details of the peer review system in place at Keele University

To support the local research community, a Joint Independent Peer Review Committee was established and developed a shared system for independent review of research.

The Committee comprises of senior representation from Keele University, local NHS Trusts, and Primary Care organisations with a research portfolio, providing expertise in a variety of areas.

The local peer review system is based on the use of proformas and by means of electronic communication. The standard for completing the review process (from submission of application to informing the applicant of the outcome) is 60 working days. 

Projects do not need to be submitted to the Joint Peer Review Committee if independent external peer review has already been undertaken by another body (usually the funding institution). 

For undergraduate student projects and postgraduate taught Masters, Schools are expected to assume the role of undertaking peer review to the satisfaction of the Ethics Committee. 

Only MPhil, MD and PhD projects need to be submitted to the Peer Review Committee, unless they have already been peer reviewed.

Applications for peer review can be submitted to the Committee at any time using the Peer Review Application Form‌.  A copy of the application proforma can also be obtained from the IPRC Adminis trator, Directorate of Engagement and Partnerships, IC2 Building, Keele University e-mail

If the project is a joint project between Keele University and a local NHS Trust or involves a local NHS Trust please speak to the Trust Research & Development Department.

Once the application proforma is complete and has been approved and signed off as appropriate, please e-mail the signed copy to IPRC Administrator on for processing.

Peer review is undertaken commensurate to the scale of the project.  Full projects are always reviewed by a Committee member and two external reviewers (external to North Staffordshire/Keele University).  MPhil, MD, PhD student/pilot/pre-pilot projects are normally only reviewed by a Committee member.  However, judgment will be made by the Committee member as to whether the project requires external review.  Therefore, in order to prevent any delay in the review process, it is important to include the contact details of 3 external reviewers.  Furthermore, it is strongly advised that applicant contacts the suggested external reviewers prior to submitting the application to establish if they able to undertake a peer review on the project.

The review is undertaken using the Peer Reviewers Proforma‌.  Reviewers are requested to:-

1.  Assess and comment on the proposal on the following areas;

  • Importance or relevant of the problem to be addressed in relation to the particular field as a whole and the value of this research for health or social care
  • Quality and relevance of the background information provided
  • Design, methods, strengths and weaknesses of the proposed plan of investigation
  • Quality of analysis
  • Capacity and expertise of research team in the context of the proposed study
  • Summary of issues raised that need to be addressed

2.         Grade the project accordingly

Grade 1 : Application is approved and an application can proceed for review by an NHS Research Ethics Committee

Grade 2 : Minor amendments/further information is required.  Application to be revised and re-asessed by reviewer(s) prior to Chair's action to proceed.  

Grade 3 : Major revisions required.  Application to be revised and re-asessed by reviewer(s) prior to Chair's action to proceed.    

Grade 4 : Reject on the basis that the project has major scientific flaws.  The final decision to reject a project will be made after detailed consideration by all members of the Committee.

3.  Complete and return their review to the IPRC Administrator within 21 working days of receipt of the request.

Once all reviews have been returned, the members of the Peer Review Committee review and ratify all recommendations (via e-mail correspondence).  A final grade is agreed, and the applicant is informed of the outcome in writing and is provided with copies of anonymised reviews. 

Please note that the Joint Independent Peer Review Committee is NOT linked to or is a sub committee of an NHS Research Ethics Committee (REC) and that the REC may still reject a project on the grounds of ethical issues.

Good practice points for applicants

In order to prevent unnecessary delays with peer review, applicants must ensure that :-

  • The application proforma is complete
  • The appropriate personnel have reviewed and signed off the project
  • The contact details of 3 external reviewers are given in the application

It is also advised that applicants contact the suggested external reviewers before submitting the proforma to enquire that if they were sent a request to review they would willing/able to undertake a review. 

If you have any queries or would like further information on the Independent Peer Review process, please contact 

IPRC Administrator
Directorate of Engagement and Partnerships
IC2 Building
Keele University, ST5 5NH

E-mail :