The following description sets out the standard ISRF procedure for assessing proposals and selecting grantees.


Following the relevant application deadline, proposals may be sent out for triage by a panel drawn, normally, from previous ISRF Fellows. Triage panels are disciplinarily diverse, and each application is randomly allocated to two panel members.

Triage panel members are briefed on the ISRF’s criteria, and instructed to each nominate a number of proposals for further assessment. This assists the Director of Research in producing a longlist, usually of no more than 40 applications.

External Assessment

Longlisted proposals are sent out for independent, external assessment. In the first instance, appropriate academics (identified by keywords submitted by applicants) are asked to recommend suitable assessors for each project, based on the title and abstract.

These nominated assessors are contacted and invited to provide an assessment or to suggest other suitable assessors.

Confirmed assessors are sent a file containing the full Research Proposal, including a List of References. No identifying information is included, and CV’s are not considered at this stage.

For ECF6 & ISF8, assessors were asked to comment on:

  • The merit of the proposal overall
  • The importance of the study question (regarding research background and focus) (i) within the (inter)disciplinary area; (ii) as a problem of real, human, life
  • The innovativeness and aptness of the methods (regarding methodology)
  • Interdisciplinary combinations and transformations within, and beyond, the social sciences in (i) the empirical methods; (ii) the theoretical perspectives
  • Quality and originality (regarding focus, methodology and theoretical novelty)
  • Feasibility in the 1 year period of the award (regarding the work plan and outcome)
  • Appropriateness of any ethical considerations taken
  • Likelihood that the project is otherwise fundable (by mainstream funding bodies)
  • Quality of the written proposal: (i) presentation; (ii) cogency
  • General comments

For FBG1, assessors were asked to comment on:

  • The merit of the proposal overall
  • The importance of the proposal topic (regarding Proposal Summary, Thesis Abstract, Background) (i) within the (inter)disciplinary area; (ii) as a problem of real, human, life
  • The quality, value, and/or originality of the project’s approach (regarding Theory and Methodology)
  • The value of the project as an academic or general-interest book rather than, for example, a set of scholarly articles; may include quality of writing (regarding Proposal Summary, Thesis Abstract, Key Findings, Plan for Publication)
  • The feasibility in the 1 year period of the award, and the suitability of proposed publishers (regarding the Work Plan, Plan for Publication)
  • General comments

We usually aim for at least two independent external assessments for each longlisted proposal.

There is no honorarium offered to external assessors. We are very grateful for the work that is taken on, free of charge, to help us with our selection process, and hope that the experience is intellectually rewarding (and interesting) for those taking part as assessors.


A shortlist – usually no more than 10 proposals – is constructed based on the independent external assessments.

Selection Panel

A shortlist dossier – comprising the full Research Proposal, List of References, CV, Letter of Support and external assessments – is circulated to a Selection Panel comprising four academics drawn from across the social sciences and humanities. Normally, one member of the ISRF Academic Advisory Board will participate in the Selection Panel, which is chaired by the Director of Research.

The Selection Panel will meet to consider the shortlist, and to nominate proposals for funding. The Foundation Board is informed of the competition outcome, and applicants are notified.


Assessment feedback is shared – anonymously – with all long-listed applicants. Unfortunately, given the number of applications, it is not possible to offer feedback for proposals which do not reach the longlist.

The Foundation subscribes to a code of ethics which covers, amongst other things, academic values of fairness, transparency and independence.