Monitoring funding processes

From The Embassy of Good Science

Monitoring funding processes

What is this about?

As funders are an important stakeholder in many research projects, they often monitor the research process. The funder can decide to monitor the project closely, to have standard protocols in place (e.g. for research misconduct or changing research methods), and to evaluate a project. Prior to the commencement of a project, there should be agreement between the research funding organization (RFO) and the research performing organization (RPO) on how the project will be monitored.

Why is this important?

RFOs want to ensure that the research projects they fund have a positive societal impact. In the most severe cases, research monitoring can result in the termination of project funding. Funders can monitor the allocation of finances, the quality of research, adherence to the research proposal, and whether laws, regulatory frameworks and contracts are upheld.

After the conclusion of a research project, a funder can have a follow-up period to assess the real-time impact of the research. In addition, RFO’s can perform regular Standard Evaluation Protocols (SEP’s). For example, in the Netherlands, all institutions receiving public funding are subject to a SEP every 6 years.[1]

When a researcher wants to diverge from the research proposal, approval from the RFO needs to be sought. This often involves providing an explanation as to why the researcher wants to change the methodology.

According to research misconduct guidelines from the UK Research Integrity Office (UKRIO), when an allegation of misconduct is made to the organization performing the research, the RFO must be informed.[2] Both the confidentiality of the whisteblower and the accused needs to be guaranteed when informing the RFO. In addition, allegations of research misconduct can be presented directly to the funding organization. RFOs should have guidelines in place to deal with allegations of misconduct involving their funded projects. In most instances, the funding organization will inform the research performing organization about the allegation, and the appropriate procedures will be started by the RPO (also see research misconduct). However, the person making the allegation may fear repercussions, and may wish to remain anonymous. The Wellcome Trust, a UK-based funding agency, states the following:[3]

“If an informant wishes to remain anonymous, this will be respected unless:

  • there are overriding legal requirements that we reveal the identity of the informant
  • it is impossible to maintain anonymity to conduct an investigation
  • the informant subsequently agrees to relinquish anonymity.

The informant will be notified of any proposed change to their anonymity”

  1. KNAW (2016) Standard Evaluation Protocol 2015- 2021. Accessed via:
  2. UKRIO (2008) Procedure for the investigation of misconduct in research. Accessed via:
  3. Wellcome Trust (2019). Research misconduct. Accessed via:

For whom is this important?

What are the best practices?

Bullying and harassment policies

Bullying and harassment policies allow RFOs to stimulate positive research cultures. Such policies can improve research culture, and their existence “sends a signal that certain ethical standards must be met by researchers and organizations in exchange for funding”.[1] The US based funder National Science Foundation (NSF) requires RPOs receiving funding to inform the NSF about sexual harassment.[2] In addition, the Wellcome Trust has elaborate rules on what they expect from the organizations they fund (7):[3]

1. The funded organization requires policies that set out:

  • standards of behavior from staff
  • the procedure for responding to complaints

2.  The funded organization should have an equivalent policy in place at sub-levels, where relevant.

3. The funded organization should investigate allegations of bullying and harassment in an impartial, fair and timely manner. It must:

  • protect the rights of all employees involves
  • take appropriate action.

4. The funded organization should contact the Wellcome Trust when an investigation has been opened.

5. The funded organization should contact the Wellcome Trust when the investigation has been completed.
  1. Else, H. (2018). Report harassment or risk losing funding, says top UK science funder. Nature, 557(7706), 149-150.
  2. Witze, A. (2018). US science agency will require universities to report sexual harassment. Nature, 554(7692).
  3. Wellcome Trust (2018) Bullying and harassment policy. Accessed via:

Other information

Virtues & Values
Good Practices & Misconduct