Objective decision making: Insights from responsive mode committee chairs

Objective decision making: Insights from responsive mode committee chairs


Responsive mode committees are probably some
of the important committees that we actually have in BBSRC. You will get to see the breadth and depth
of the cutting edge bioscience in the UK. You can understand what they’re trying to
do way ahead of the actual published science that’s coming out. It’s great fun! The chair is really important because they
are responsible for sort of ensuring that the meetings and the applications are discussed
in a consistent, a robust and a fair manor because we need to make sure that the wider
community are confident in the recommendations that we’re making and in the proposals that
we’re actually investing in. I feel, as I say, honoured to be able to do
this, and to support that process and to give something back to the scientific community. To sit in a room with other scientists, talking
about science is a fantastic opportunity so it’s a hugely rewarding process. Well having been both a chair and an introducing
member, actually the role is quite different. So the chair doesn’t drill down into the
detail as much but sort of takes that broader overview. The chair is really about insuring
that where there are particular issues that might need to be discussed more openly that
those are raised. You have to take a different mentality from
being an introducing member; now you’re leading the discussion but you should not
be influencing it. You have to collect all the views you can from all the introducing
members sat around the table and try and summarise them at the end so that it feels like you’re
coming to a decision based as a community that’s reviewing the science in front of
you and its value for money, and that you’re not putting words into people’s mouths. So I see the role, the Committee Chairs role,
as a facilitator and that is an opportunity to help facilitate discussion, and that discussion
has got to be open, its got to be even handed, its got to give everybody a voice within that
committee meeting and we’re all scientists in that committee room and one of the most
important things that scientists respond to. Yes we enjoy disagreement, yes we enjoy debate,
but we respond to evidence and the secret as a committee chair is to make sure that
all of the discussions that are going on are evidenced based and that should lead to a
fair even handed discussion within the committee. Disagreements tend to arise but these are
quite seldom, when they do and the introducing members have differing opinions then one can
open the discussion up to other members around the table for discussion. We’ll often differ grants to enable somebody
else to have a more thorough look at it. We have the possibility to ask a third introducing
member look at them. And thank them for making their contribution
but simply point out that it’s simply not possible for everybody to agree. Massive amounts of preparation go in in terms
of reading and considering all of the, if you like, regulations and the framework around
the decision making process so that when you get into that committee you are fully prepared
and there are no surprises. Another thing that is important for the chair
to do is to look at the ethical issues financial details, animal issues, in particular animal
numbers. So ranking the proposals is the chief goal
of the panel meeting itself. To come up with a rank list of recommended funding for the
office and this is achieved again with all panel members present and its made clear that
the process of ranking involves everybody’s opinion and is unbiased. You need to try and have in mind the grants
that you know are going to be close to or above the funding limit that’s likely to
be there in that round, the top twenty or thirty grants perhaps. So you’re aware of
what they all are and remind yourself, just before that discussion what the salient points
about those grants were. I think we’re really looking for people
who’ve been shown that they are kind of collegiate, that they are responsible, that
they have good judgement and that they’re interested actually in what they’re doing
so people who’ve been IMs, who’ve participated in good discussions, have shown that they’re
very sensible and logical and have a strong sense of fairness and proportionality I think
are really important. Research has actually shown that when you have a diverse board that
you actually improve decision making and so we absolutely want to insure that we’ve
got the appropriate diversity, that’s actually a representative of wider community. The skills that I use are one to listen and
try and extract information from the introducing members for the various proposals. I think that perhaps from a personal perspective,
one of the most important and valuable training elements for me throughout my time on the
committee has been to see other people in action and to spend a significant amount of
time actually reflecting on what went well and what didn’t go well. I think it’s a very fair process and when
you haven’t done any grant reviewing you can sometimes feel like its a biased and not
very fair process. But as soon as you actually involve yourself in that process directly,
you will change your mind I guarantee it. You will feel as though you’re part of the
process and you can see how it really is trying to fund the best science.

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Hello my name is Robin and I want to thank you very much for taking the time to watch this

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