Complaints procedure at NordForsk
In cases where an applicant believes NordForsk has failed to act in accordance with this commitment, there is a possibility of submitting an official complaint.
What can a complaint be about?
An official complaint can only be made regarding procedural errors relating to NordForsk funding decision, here defined as denial of funding or rejection of grant applications.
Applicants cannot make complaints regarding a the strategic, academic or scientific judgement or discretion of NordForsk Bodies. NordForsk bodies are here defined as programme committees, panels, experts, the NordForsk secretariat, other bodies appointed by the NordForsk Board, and the NordForsk Board.
A complaint may thus relate to two main categories of errors or shortcomings:
- An alleged procedural error consisting of a violation of NordForsk’s own regulations regarding processing applications for research funding, or of the provisions of the regulations of the Nordic Council of Ministers. This may, for example, involve failure to adhere to the NordForsk guidelines on impartiality, or evaluating scientific quality of a proposal without peer-review.
- A fundamental deficiency or shortcoming in the exercise of discretion. This may, for example, involve situations in which extraneous considerations have been allowed to determine the basis for a decision; arbitrary, biased or highly unreasonable decisions have been made; or the decisions that have been taken lead to subjective differential treatment in relation to other applicants.
Examples of matters that are not subject to the complaints procedure are:
- Complaints about a funding decision based on disagreement concerning academic/scientific/strategic judgement and/or discretion of NordForsk bodies
- Complaints concerning applications that are not in response to a NordForsk call
- Complaints relating to decisions or processes outside NordForsk
- Complaints where stated policies and processes have been followed
- Complaints that concern issues subject to legal proceedings or litigation
- Complaints that have already been considered appropriately and closed under this complaints procedure.
- Complaints about Director’s Decisions
Where a complaint is related to research conduct (RRI), the matter should be referred to the relevant national research ethics committee.
Disagreements regarding contractual obligations in running projects are subject to the procedures specified in the contract and will not be handled through the complaints procedure.
Processing of a complaint
If an applicant has a grievance regarding a funding decision, the first step should always be that the applicant raises the matter with the relevant member of staff at NordForsk. This allows for the clearing up of any misunderstandings, and for the applicant to be given all relevant information regarding the decision-making process and NordForsk procedures. If this dialogue does not resolve the matter, and the applicant wishes to take the matter further, the issue should be considered as an official complaint.
For an official complaint, the following requirements apply:
- An official complaint may only be put forth by a representative of the legal entity listed as Project Owner in the application. Complaints put forward by others will not be considered.
- The deadline for submitting an official complaint is three weeks after notification of a funding decision. Complaints submitted later will not be considered.
- An official complaint must be submitted in writing.
- An official complaint must clearly state the reasons why the complaint is being lodged.
In order for NordForsk to investigate the complaint in a timely and effective manner, the following information must be provided in an official complaint:
- Full contact details of complainant
- Information about the exact application concerned
- The NordForsk programme or activity to which the complaint relates, and the name of any involved NordForsk staff (if known) dealing with the issue
- A clear description of the reasons for the complaint, relating to point a and b above.
- Desired outcome of complaint, if appropriate.
It should be noted that in the case of complaints relating to funding decisions, the outcome of the complaint may only be either:
- to cancel the decision and re-do the decision-making process, or
- uphold the original decision.
An official complaint cannot lead directly to a change in a funding decision.
The complaint will be acknowledged within five working days with a full response made normally within 20 working days thereafter, for eligible official complaints. If a full response is not possible within this time, NordForsk will provide details of progress made and a target date for resolution or further point of contact.
Decision regarding a complaint
If the complaint is eligible and complete, the matter is referred to the NordForsk director for a Director’s decision. The Director’s decision is final and cannot be appealed.
If the Director’s decision upholds the original decision, the matter is closed and the original decision stands.
If the Director’s decision is in favour of the complaint, the application will be subject to a new evaluation process, and the NordForsk Board will subsequently make a final funding decision regarding the application.
In cases where the application is to be subject to a new evaluation, the process should start from where the error on which the complaint was based, occurred.
Reference to information about the complaints procedure should be made available in rejection letters and on NordForsk web-pages.
NordForsk invites feedback on policies and procedures. Such comments will not be regarded formally as complaints. Any observations or views should be sent to the relevant adviser or to firstname.lastname@example.org.