Code of conduct for expert review panel members

As a reviewer, you have a crucial role in supporting research integrity in the expert review and research funding process at the Canadian Cancer Society (CCS). Expert review refers to the process employed by CCS to review research grant applications, and is inclusive of researchers, scientists, clinicians, patients, survivors, caregivers (people with lived cancer experience), decision-makers, and other end-users and knowledge users – who bring a diverse range of relevant perspectives to bear on the evaluation of applications for research funding.

This code of conduct outlines the expectations of the Canadian Cancer Society (CCS) for all expert review panel members.

CCS is a signatory of the San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment (DORA). We follow DORA recommendations to develop better research assessment practices. A broad range of impact measures and research outputs should be considered (i.e., new knowledge, influence on policy, practice, health, and health system impacts (‘real-world impacts’), datasets (and the open sharing of these), software, inventions, patents, preprints, other commercial activities, training of new researchers, etc.). Reviewers should not solely rely on journal impact factors (or any hierarchy of journals), conference rankings and/or metrics such as the H-index or i10- index when assessing CCS research applications. This approach will be duly reflected in CCS’s reviewer rating scales. To learn more about DORA and research assessment, see DORA’s Ideas for Action.

CCS recognizes that structural racism and discrimination exists in the research ecosystem, and, as we move to examine and dismantle these practices, we seek to learn from the resilience, wisdom and diversity of other perspectives. We commit to examining biases, seeking inclusive solutions and acknowledging the discomfort that comes with systemic and structural change. We commit to advancing equity, diversity, accessibility, and inclusive practices and principles, including learning about and applying decolonizing and anti-racist approaches. 

Code of conduct for expert review panel members

For transparency, panel conduct is reported to the CCS's Advisory Council on Research (ACOR) as part of the Panel Chair Report.

You should agree to act as a review panel member only if you have the appropriate expertise, enough time to complete the reviews in accordance with the deadlines provided and are able to fully participate in the panel meeting.

Declare any potentially competing interests and/or recuse yourself from assignments if you have a conflict of interest. Specific procedures for conflicts of interest are described below.

Recognize that systemic and structural racism and discrimination exist throughout and are embedded within research and academic systems. Reflect on your identity and biases and how they may shape your views of merit, science, and other topics (contact CCS for learning resources if required). Be open to different approaches to investigation, new disciplinary thinking and methodological novelty. Review proposals as submitted and not on the reputation (or pre-existing knowledge) of the research team or their past achievements. Refrain from making assumptions or speculating – base your review on what is in front of you, utilizing your experience and expertise as appropriate. Adhere to the rating scales for transparency in your scoring.

We expect all reviewers to have some knowledge of equity, diversity and inclusion principles and to apply this during review. We also expect all reviewers to undergo CIHR’s Unconscious Bias Training. For more information on CCS’ position, see our Inclusive Excellence Action Plan.

Listen to, acknowledge and respect the expertise and contributions of every reviewer at the table. Present views clearly and succinctly, adding new information and presenting alternate points in a respectful manner. Provide constructive critiques (both written and verbal), assessing the proposal and not the applicant (except where specifically directed to do so).

Do not share information about the applications or specific reviews during or after expert review, and do not use any information from the application or review process for your own advantage.

Conflict of Interest

Possible conflicts of interest include, but are not limited to the following instances where the panel member and applicant (includes all proposal team members except collaborators and end-users):

  • are members of the same academic department
  • have collaborated on research in the past three years or propose/aim to collaborate in the immediate future
  • have a professional association as a current (or former) student, postdoctoral fellow or supervisor
  • have a close personal (i.e., friends or family) or business relationship
  • are known to be direct competitors, or known to have strongly conflicting professional or scientific views
  • have been a patient or study participant of the applicant(s) in the past three years

Conflict of interest procedures:

The following procedures apply to all panel members, including panel Chairs, scientific reviewers, patient/survivor/caregiver reviewers, external reviewers and decision-makers (and other end-user / knowledge user reviewers). When the Chair is in conflict, an Acting Chair will be appointed.

  • Panel members who are Principal Investigators (including Co-Principal Investigators): The member will step down from the panel.
  • Panel members who are co-applicants, patient/survivor/caregiver partners, or decision-makers (and other end-users / knowledge users): The application will be assigned to another panel or the panel member will declare a conflict and be absent from the panel during the discussion, review and determination of the rating of the application.
  • Panel members who are direct supervisors/mentors to the applicant: The application will be assigned to another panel, the panel member will step down from the panel, or, if the previous options are not possible, the panel member will declare a conflict, and be absent from the panel during the discussion, review and determination of the rating of the application.
  • Current members of ACOR cannot be engaged as Chairs or reviewers, to avoid conflict of interest and undue influence over the funding process.

This Code of Conduct will evolve and be updated as our understanding and progress in dismantling systemic barriers and discrimination evolves. Thank you for helping us promote integrity and transparency in the research review process!


Date: April 26, 2023