Research & Innovation - Participant Portal H2020 Online Manual

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Experts roles and tasks

If you have registered as an expert and have the required profile, the Commission will contact you in due course to let you know whether you have been selected. This depends on whether there are any proposals to be evaluated or projects to be monitored requiring your particular expertise.

Roles and tasks assigned to experts

As an expert, you can perform a variety of roles and tasks:

  1. Evaluators are responsible for evaluating proposals submitted in response to a call for proposals based on the work programmes.
    Evaluators may also act as a rapporteur, chair, or vice-chair at consensus discussions or meetings of panels of evaluators. Rapporteurs are responsible for drafting the consensus report (CR) of a consensus meeting.
  2. Observers provide the Commission with independent advice on the conduct and fairness of all phases of the evaluation process, on how evaluators apply evaluation criteria, and on how to improve the procedure.
    They check compliance with the procedures stipulated in the Guide for proposal submission and evaluation. The observer may attend any meeting held during the proposal evaluation process and drafts a report on the evaluation session observed.
  3. Monitors assist the Commission in monitoring the implementation of projects that have received funding, taking into account work descriptions, reports and deliverables.
  4. Experts who
    • assist in the implementation of EU research and innovation (R&I) programmes or policy, or
    • assist in the evaluation of R&I programmes, or
    • in designing R&I programmes or policy
    Any of the above tasks may involve attending meetings of groups of experts and remote working, as specified in Annex II (Terms of reference of groups of experts) of the contract. Experts in this category may also be called on to act as rapporteur, chair or vice-chair at such meetings. They send the Commission a report, including recommendations.
  5. Members of the European Research and Innovation Area Board (ERIAB)
    • engage in continuous evaluation of the Innovation Union initiative
    • reflect on new trends
    • make recommendations on priorities and actions.
    They are required to attend ERIAB's plenary meetings.

All experts' tasks are laid down in their contract and its annexes. See the model contract for independent experts for further details.

The European Research Council (ERC) has, in addition, the following expert types for the peer review evaluation:

  • Chair-persons of the ERC peer review evaluation panels: organise the work within their Panel, chair Panel meetings and attend a final consolidation meeting. They may also perform individual evaluation of proposals, usually remotely, in preparation for the panel meetings.
  • Members of the ERC peer review evaluation panels: assist in the preparation of panel meetings, attend panel meetings and may also contribute in the individual evaluation of proposals, usually remotely.
  • Panel evaluators: assist in the individual evaluation of proposals. Usually they do not participate in panel meetings.
  • Referees: assess proposals only remotely and are not compensated for these tasks.

ERC experts are not selected from the Commission's central database of experts. Rather, the ERC Scientific Council proposes experts to conduct peer reviews of frontier research projects and monitor the implementation of indirect actions.

Horizon 2020 expert groups

In addition to the evaluation of proposals and monitoring of actions, experts may assist the Commission in the preparation, implementation or evaluation of research and innovation programmes and the design of policies (see description of roles above). Depending if experts are members of an expert group or an advisory group they might or might not have to sign a contract with the Commission.
All Expert and Advisory Groups have to be registered in the European Commission's Register of Expert Groups managed by the Secretariat-General.

Proposal-evaluation process

The underlying principles to bear in mind during evaluation are:

  • Excellence - projects must demonstrate a high level of quality in relation to the topics and criteria set out in the calls
  • Transparency - funding decisions must be based on clearly defined rules and procedures, and applicants should receive adequate feedback on the outcome of the evaluation
  • Fairness and impartiality - all proposals must be treated equally and evaluated impartially on their merits, irrespective of their origin or the identity of the applicants
  • Confidentiality - all proposals and related data, knowledge and documents must be treated in confidence
  • Speed and efficiency - proposals should be evaluated and grants awarded and administered as swiftly as possible, without compromising quality or breaking the rules

Evaluation criteria

The work programmes and Guide for submission and evaluation of proposals set out the detailed evaluation criteria and sub-criteria, their weightings and the applicable thresholds.

Thresholds may vary according to the work programme. For two-stage submission schemes, thresholds and the maximum overall score may vary between the first and the second stage.

Steps in the Process

The diagram below depicts the main steps of the evaluation process and highlights at which stages the experts intervene.

Expert's role in the evaluation process

There are three main phases in the experts' involvement in the evaluation process.

Before starting their work, experts are briefed on evaluation procedures (including remote evaluation), the topics of the relevant calls for proposals and the terms of their contracts. This briefing can be done in Brussels or remotely (e.g. web-streaming).

Step 1

For each proposal, experts presents their evaluation results in an individual evaluation report (IER), explaining the evaluation scores. Expert evaluators also pre-screen each proposal (on the basis of the applicant's ethics self-assessment) to see if it raises ethical issues. All evaluation forms are completed online. This report can be completed and signed remotely or in Brussels.

In principle, proposals will be evaluated initially by at least three experts (in a number of cases, five or more). However, for the first stage in two-stage submission schemes and for low-value grants, only two experts may be involved.

Step 2

A consensus group is convened in order for all the experts who assessed the proposals in question to discuss the individual evaluation reports and agree on comments and scores.

The consensus group discussion is led by a moderator (normally a Commission/Agency official), who seeks a consensus and ensures that proposals are evaluated in a fair manner and in line with the established criteria.

The consensus group discussion results in a consensus report (CR) including justifications of scores and dissenting views, if any. The moderator is responsible for ensuring that the consensus report reflects the consensus reached. The report is signed by the rapporteur and the experts evaluating the proposal discussed.

The discussion usually takes place in Brussels and includes experts who participated in the individual evaluation. It is also possible to convene a remote consensus group.

Step 3

Panel review consists of reviewing all the proposals within a call, or part of a call, to:

  • ensure that the consensus groups have been consistent in their evaluations;
  • if necessary, propose a new set of marks or comments; and
  • resolve cases where a consensus could not be reached and a minority view was recorded in the consensus report.

Exceptionally, in some cases, justified by the specific call circumstances, the outcome of the consensus group will constitute the final result of the evaluation, and there will be no panel review. These cases will be signalled in the guidance documents.

The panel review is led by a panel chairperson (normally a Commission/Agency official) who ensures fair and equal treatment of the proposals.

The panel review should result in a panel report which includes the evaluation summary report (ESR) for each proposal, a list of proposals passing all thresholds, along with a final score, (panel ranked list) and, where necessary, the panel's recommendations for priority order in the event of equal scores, using the procedure set out in the work programme. A rapporteur may be appointed to draft the panel report.

Monitoring projects (Technical review)

Projects are monitored to assess the work carried out over a given period and make recommendations to the Commission. Monitoring may cover scientific, technological and other aspects of the implementation of the project and grant agreement.

The monitoring expert's task is to advise the Commission on how the project has progressed with regard to:

  • the initial work plan
  • deliverables
  • planned and used resources
  • relevance of the objectives
  • scientific and industrial quality
  • management procedures and methods
  • beneficiaries' contributions, and
  • the expected potential impact in scientific, technological, economic, competitive and social terms, and the plans for the use and dissemination of results.

Depending on the project's complexity and progress, the review may include remote work entailing reading and analysis of the grant agreement, grant decision and other background information and deliverables and finally drafting the report. The expert may also be required to attend project meetings at the Commission offices or at the premises of the beneficiary.

The Commission may require the expert to carry out on-site technical audits to verify whether critical milestones are being met, or to assist in carrying out research integrity (scientific misconduct) analysis during implementation.

Types of project monitoring

  • Periodic monitoring provided for in the grant agreement (generally linked to payment)
  • Ad-hoc monitoring, which the Commission can request at any time, where necessary, and which may involve reviewing financial and technical aspects, or only technical aspects.

Monitoring process

  • Review meeting and assessment - experts read all relevant documents before and attends the review meeting. They then assess the project on the basis of the written material and information provided at the meeting. In the event of remote monitoring, the assessment is based on written documents only.
  • Monitoring report - the expert draws up the monitoring report on a project, and the Commission sends it to the consortium via the coordinator, but it is not made public. If more than one expert is involved in project monitoring, they issue a single consolidated report written by a rapporteur.
  • Recommendations - the monitor will also assist the Commission by recommending any changes that may be required. However, the final decision on recommendations and changes is taken by the Commission alone.
  • Observations - beneficiaries may comment on the monitoring report within one month of receiving it.
  • Project assessment by the Commission - taking the experts' formal recommendations into account, the Commission informs the coordinator of its decision, which, however, may depart from the recommendations. It may entail
    • accepting or rejecting the deliverables
    • allowing the project to continue in its existing form
    • suggesting modifications, or
    • taking steps to terminate the grant agreement or to exclude a beneficiary from taking part.