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Code of conduct for scientific review panel members

Code of conduct for reviewers​

The following Conflict of Interest Guidelines are intended to govern the conduct of members of scientific review panels regarding the disclosure and avoidance of conflicts of interest. 

Scientific review panels have the primary responsibility for the assessment of research proposals. Arthritis Society Canada must be satisfied that any real or perceived conflict of interest has not had an adverse impact on the proposal assessment and the granting process. 

Conflicts of interest occur when the panel member’s individual research program, individual research interests and goals and/or individual institutional or job-related interests are sufficient that they may have an influence on the granting process. Conflicts may also exist when the panel member has the opportunity to influence the assessment and recommendation of research in ways that could lead to professional, personal or economic gain, or otherwise give improper advantage to the panel member, the panel member’s family, or institutions in which the panel member or the panel member’s family hold official positions or significant economic interests. Conflict exists where there is a perception of conflicting interests, regardless of the intention of the individual and whether or not the individual is actually influenced. The principles in this definition apply equally to panel chairs and their family members. 

Procedure for disclosure 

Each member of a scientific review panel shall agree to maintain the confidentiality of Arthritis Society Canada’s information and to adhere to Arthritis Society Canada’s Code of Conduct for Scientific Review Panel Members. Management shall carry out such assessments as is necessary in the allocation of research proposals in order to avoid conflicts of interest.  

Conflicts of interest for panel chairs 

The research application of the chair of a panel shall be assigned to another panel. If this is not possible, the chair shall step down from the panel in the competition that his or her application is reviewed. 

Panel members who are Principal Investigators 

The applications of other members of a panel, including Scientific Officers, who would be considered Principal Investigators shall be assigned to another panel, to the extent feasible. If it is not feasible, the member shall step down from the panel in the competition that the application is reviewed. 

Panel members who are co-applicants 

To the extent feasible, the applications of other members of a panel who would be co-applicants shall be assigned to another panel, provided the expertise is available and no unfairness to the applicant will ensue. If it is not possible, the member shall: 

  • Step down from the panel in the competition that the application is reviewed; or, 
  • Be absent from the panel during the discussion, review and determination of the rating of the application. The other members shall not indicate the rating of the application to the applicant. 


The staff will review annually all cases that involve real or apparent conflicts of interest to determine whether further guidelines are required.  

Bias of panel members 

Maintaining the independence, objectivity, rigour and integrity of the assessment process is vital. Panel members should strive to avoid situations in which prior relationships or experience may consciously or unconsciously bias their judgment and make it difficult to assess a research proposal objectively. Examples of such bias may occur where the panel member and applicant: 

  • are members of the same academic department 
  • have collaborated on research in the past three years or propose to collaborate in the immediate future 
  • have a professional association as a student, postdoctoral fellow or supervisor in the past three years 
  • have a close personal or business relationship 
  • are known to be direct competitors, or known to have strongly conflicting professional or scientific views 

This list is not exhaustive. 

When any such circumstances occur, they shall be disclosed to the staff and to the panel chair, who shall decide as to whether: 

  • the panel member should be excluded at the outset from all further aspects of the evaluation of the proposal in question; or, 
  • the panel member should remain on the panel and the nature of the possible bias should be disclosed to the panel at the time of its meeting in order for the panel to determine an appropriate action at that time