Environmental Biotechnology Network

Proof of Concept (PoC) Awards

Our final call closed on 19 Feb 24.

Visit our Outcomes page to view all of the funded projects.

Reflections on the move to a double-blind Proof of Concept call

Recent criticisms within academia and a strong focus on EDI initiatives have highlighted anxieties about inequalities in the workplace. Our diverse research community needs to be assured that we take inclusion seriously and aim to safeguard the quality of funded research by eliminating, wherever possible, opportunities for bias in our processes. With these concerns in mind, the Environmental Biotechnology Network (EBNet) moved to a ‘double-blind’ system for our 2022 Proof of Concept funding call. The purpose of a double-blind system is to remove ‘identifiers’ from the review/decision-making process, leaving the scientific proposal to stand or fall on its merits. Identifiers can be gender or status specific (he/she/Dr/Prof), or provide other identifying information based on location.

In 2023 EBNet tackled this issue by amending its application, sift, review and assessment panel processes.
In initial discussions, the Executive Group noted that it may still be possible to identify applicants simply from their research interests. Nevertheless, at the award stage, the attribution of several bids came as a surprise to panel members. With such a small sample size, no statistical analysis of the impact on outcomes is possible. We felt, however, that although it is impossible to prevent assumptions and inadvertent bias completely, the double-blind process made assessors more aware that they should be striving against this, making the process worthwhile for future calls.

The complete report on the 2023 process is available here.

Previous calls

Our first PoC call opened on 2 March 2020, with a closing date of 24 April 2020, which was extended to 15 May 2020 due to Covid-related delays. Thirty-three bids were submitted. Five projects were awarded in August 2020.

Our second POC call opened on 1 March 2021 and closed on 29 April 2021. Twenty five bids were submitted. Four projects were awarded in August 2021.

Our third open, double-blind POC call opened on 1 March 2022 and closed on 16 May 2022. Twenty bids were submitted. Three projects were awarded in 2022.

Our fourth open, double-blind POC call opened on 1 June 2023 and closed on 15 August 2023. Twelve bids were submitted. One project was awarded in 2023.

Our final open, unblinded, ‘fast-track’ call for small-scale/desk-based projects between £5-£25k opened on 4 January 2024 and closed on 19 February 2024.

Further details on previously awarded PoC and BIV projects can be found in the Outcomes section of this website.