Community Reviewers: Involving the Canadian Public in the CIHR Peer Review Committees
The Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) have committed to enhancing public and stakeholder engagement in health research in Canada. One of the mechanisms to accomplish this goal is through inviting Community Reviewers to sit on CIHR's Peer Review panels. By Community Reviewers, we mean members of the public who are not currently involved in academia or research, but who have a demonstrated interest in health and science. These individuals may include: practitioners and/or volunteers who work with various health research or health care providing organizations, business leaders, policy makers, program administrators, care givers, and individuals that work in such institutions as the media or education.
The peer review committees for the main CIHR competition (the Operating Grants Program) are composed of roughly 5 to 12 leading health researchers in approximately 50 fields of health research (more information on the mandate of each committee can be found on the Peer Review Committees and Mandate page). Twice a year, the committees meet to discuss health research proposals submitted by Canadian scientists and, in some cases, their international collaborators. CIHR helps support over 11,000 health researchers.
The Community Reviewers program objectives are:
- To provide a mechanism for public accountability by providing feedback to CIHR on his/her observations of the peer review process.
- To increase transparency of CIHR's peer review process by attending the committee meetings.
- To provide feedback on the lay abstract portion of the application, specifically the extent to which the intent and importance of the proposed research is well explained and in a language clear to members of the general public.
- To communicate the merits of investment in health research, by understanding CIHR's scientific review process and the value of CIHR's investment in research. This is accomplished by having the Community Reviewer participate in public engagement activities organized by various branches within CIHR.
The criteria that will be considered in selecting Community Reviewers include:
- Value and support mission of CIHR
- Value scientific inquiry
- Not currently involved in academia or health research
- Work cooperatively in a group
- Experience working on a committee
- Communicate effectively both orally and in writing in at least one of the official languages
- Demonstrate knowledge of, or experience with, a health issue and/or have an interest in scientific research
Although Community Reviewers do not score nor appraise the scientific quality of the applications, they are nonetheless considered CIHR committee members and must follow the same privacy and conflict of interest guidelines as voting committee members. All Community Reviewers are selected through a formal process in consultation with the committee Chair.
Community reviewers will not receive any formal science training, but they will be given a thorough orientation in what to expect when they meet with the scientists at the committee meeting.
Both scientific reviewers and Community Reviewers perform this valuable work on a volunteer basis, however all economy transportation, hotel, food expenses necessary for participating in the committee meetings are paid by CIHR.
How to apply to become a Community Reviewer
Effective March 2013, CIHR is not accepting applications to the Community Reviewers Program. This change is temporary as CIHR considers ways in which community reviewers can best be integrated within the context of the reforms to its Open Suite of Programs and peer review process. CIHR values the contributions that community reviewers have made and considers community reviewers to be a critical component of the new College of Reviewers.