Peer Review System

The Client

On this project I collaborated with the University of Leeds - worked with researchers from the School of Medicine and School of Computing medical and Comptuting who actively submit grant applications to UK funding bodies such as Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) and Medical Research Council (MRC) to fund their research activities.

The Problem

Universities in the UK rely heavily on funding through grants to sustain their research activities. The competition for grants is becoming fiercer and it is recognised that one way to ensure the highest quality of application is via rigorous internal review.

Researchers from the University of Leeds described the process as informal, inconsistent and ad hock. They wanted to facilitate the management of the internal peer review which was previously conducted manually - contacting reviewers and keeping track of review and application statuses was done via email. In addition, they wanted to help the authors of grant applications find reviews from diverse sources not limited to their area of expertise. And finally to record data about previous grant applications to allow for their assessment and highlight weaknesses that can be improved upon in future submissions.

The Process

Define

The project began with several meetings with a domain expert and research of existing platforms that support a similar review process. which provided the needed background of the problem domain which defined the requirements of the system and informed its technical design. Agreed was to use an agile methodology.

After the first iteration, an interactive prototype using Adobe XD was created. These were used during the “Design” stage to create the most suitable software architecture, which determined the most appropriate languages and tools for its development.

Design

This phase had two main components - technical design and user interface design.

The technical design was driven by the core function of the system - to create applications and submit them for review. as well as non-functional user requirements such as usability and maintainability. These high-level decisions shaped the overall system structure and were a key factor in the choice of technology stack and implementation.

The user interface was first designed using wireframes. These were then transformed into a high-fidelity interactive prototype.

Develop

Developed were two components - a REST web service and a frontend client.

The front-end conponent was a single page application using Vue.js which interacted with a back-end component written in PHP with Symfony and API Platform.

The back-end conponent provided the necessary functions for user management, creating applications for review, application processeing and review invitations as well as submitting reviews. At the heart of the system was an algorithm that selected relevant reviewers based on their areas of expertise.

Deliver

The platform was tested in multiple iterations with a group of researchers at the University of Leeds.

The platform was well accepted by the focus groups. 90% of the researchers said it is well suited to support the internal peer review of grant applications. The project completed the set objectives and provided a solid foundation for an internal peer review software to be further developed in the future.