The application assessment process
Your application will go through several steps before Formas takes its decision. Here, you can read about these steps and the work of the review panels. You can also learn how we manage conflicts of interest in the assessment process. In calls where we collaborate with other funders, the process might differ.
Preliminary assessment of basic requirements
We first verify whether your application falls within Formas’ areas of responsibility and the scope of the call. If it does, it continues on to a review panel for assessment. If it does not, it is rejected.
Your application can also be rejected if it contains procedural errors or is incomplete, meaning that it lacks the necessary information in the application form or the appendices.
What the review panels do
Review panels are responsible for assessing and ranking the applications before Formas’ scientific council takes its decision. The panels assess the applications that pass the preliminary check.
Formas has several different review panels. For the annual open call, we use ten review panels who are responsible for different thematic areas. Review panel members are appointed annually, and we appoint the members based on the skills and qualifications needed to assess the applications that each panel will process. For targeted calls, we appoint a review panel that is qualified to assess the field in question.
Formas appoints four reviewers for each application
First, the members of the review panel assess its qualifications to assess an application. They do this for each individual application. They also report any conflict of interest.
Formas appoints four reviewers for each application. One of the reviewers is appointed as the reporter. This reporter is responsible for compiling the review panel’s overall assessment of the application.
We can also engage external reviewers. We use external reviewers if the review panel members consider that they lack the qualifications needed to assess an individual application. The external reviewers can be members from another review panel or completely independent experts. Formas’ conflict of interest principles also apply to external reviewers.
Although Formas can engage external panel resources, your application is still reviewed by the four designated reviewers from the panel. The assessments of external reviewers are used as guidance.
The reviewers assess and score each application
The reviewers assess the applications they have been assigned to and score them according to the assessment criteria that apply to the call. They assess each application separately. For each assessment criterion, members of the review panel normally award points according to a 7-point scale, where 7 is the highest score and 1 the lowest score.
7 – Outstanding. The application successfully addresses all relevant aspects of the criterion in question. Shortcomings are insignificant.
6 – Excellent. The application successfully addresses all relevant aspects of the criterion in question. Shortcomings are minor.
5 – Very good. The application addresses the criterion very well, but with some notable shortcoming.
4 – Good. The application addresses the criterion well, but with several notable shortcomings.
3 – Acceptable. While the application broadly addresses the criterion, but there are considerable weaknesses.
2 – Poor. The application addresses the criterion in an inadequate manner, or there are serious inherent weaknesses.
1 – Insufficient. The application fails to address the criterion under examination or cannot be judged due to missing or incomplete information.
The reviewers rank the applications
The review panel meets to discuss and rank the applications after they complete their individual assessments. During the meeting, the panel determines a final overall score for each application.
When we receive a high volume of applications to review, the panel focuses only on those applications with the highest scores in the individual reviews and are thus assessed to be the most competitive applicants for the funding. For applications that do not proceed further, the applicant is given an average of the scores that the reviewers set individually.
If a call consists of several sub-calls, the applications are ranked for each sub-call. This means that each applicant competes only against other applications within the sub-call they are participating in.
All criteria are equally important
The review panels assess the applications according to the criteria relevant for the current call. All criteria are equally important, unless otherwise stated in the call description. In other words, the assessment criteria of the application are normally not weighted.
Reviewers can propose decreases in funding
The review panel may propose a decrease in funding for the application if they consider that it shows shortcomings based on the research plan and the project’s expected results.
Project manager receives review panel’s assessment
If you are a project manager, you will receive a written statement that contains the review panel’s overall assessment of the application. The assessment contains:
- Points for each criterion
- Weighted total score
- A brief written comment.
Formas’ scientific council takes the final decision
Formas’ scientific council takes the formal final decision to award funding to successful applicants in our calls. We base our decision on the work of the review panels. The members of the review panels assess and rank the applications within each call. The resulting score then forms the basis for our decision.
We use objectivity and impartiality in our assessment
We assess your application based on what is stated in the call description and the accompanying instructions. Nothing else may be included.
No discrimination, for example on the grounds of sex, is allowed in the assessment. The scientific quality and relevance of the applications takes precedence over aspects of gender equality, but in cases of equal assessment we give priority to the underrepresented sex.
How we avoid conflict of interest
Anyone involved in reviewing an application is required to disclose any conflict of interest and indicate the circumstances that could affect their decisions. A person who declares a conflict of interest may not assess or process the affected application. That person must also leave the room when the application is discussed during the review panel meeting. Formas creates an official record noting any declared conflicts of interest during meetings where applications are reviewed.
The provisions on conflict of interest are described in sections 16‑18 of the Administrative Procedure Act (2017:900).
- The application regards a review panel member or any person closely related to him or her, or the member or relation can be presumed to be affected by the decision to a significant extent.
- The review panel member or any person closely related to him or her is or has been the representative of, or works in, the same institution or company as the applicant or is a representative of someone else who is likely to be affected by the decision to a significant extent.
- The review panel member has an ongoing or recently concluded collaboration with the applicant.
A conflict of interest also exists if there is otherwise any particular circumstance that may affect confidence in the impartiality of a panel member. Examples include friendship, hostility and financial dependence.
When a panel member seeks funding from Formas
In some cases, members who sit on our review panels apply for funding for projects in our calls. We have procedures in place for managing such situations.
An application by a panel member may not be reviewed by the review panel that he or she belongs to. This applies regardless of the role the member has on the panel. If there is no other relevant review panel, the member must give up their position on the review panel to a substitute.