For its peer review process the Volkswagen Foundation draws on the knowledge of experts from both Germany and abroad – not relying on any permanent structural composition, but choosing its experts in accordance with the requirements called for by the individual applications and funding initiatives. The respective funding division is responsible for the selection process – working in collaboration with the other division in the case of interdisciplinary projects – and the search is oriented to the current international state of research. The selection process falls under the responsibility of the heads of departments and takes place in cooperation with the Secretary General. The appropriateness of the peer review process is then monitored by the respective decision-making level.
Qualifying Criteria for Participating Experts
In order to avoid conflicts of interest and to preclude concerns of bias, the Foundation takes care to ensure that no personal advantage can accrue through participation in the peer review process, e.g. recommending allocations to the organizational unit an expert may be working for, or favoring persons with whom familial, collegial or a teacher-student relationship may exist. Closed circles of reviewers are avoided, as is the participation of direct competitors. Persons who have applications pending, or whose application may have been recently rejected, or who for any other reason may potentially be subject to bias, are not permitted to participate in the review process.
In the rare event that persons who fall under these exclusion criteria do find themselves included in a review panel, they must refrain from assessing the respective application. For the duration of their honorary participation, members of expert panels must also refrain from submitting any application for funding on their own behalf. Should an expert intend to submit an application within the scope of a funding initiative they are involved in, they must resign from the panel in question. This also applies in the event that applications are submitted repeatedly from within their own academic unit.