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Box 2 Summary points for reviewers of public health research

From: Applying for, reviewing and funding public health research in Germany and beyond

• Have the theoretical background/the underlying model and assumptions been made explicit? Are they adequate for the topic? Please keep in mind that there is always more than one theory/model that will be adequate. If your preference deviates from the applicants’ preference: is this a major flaw of the project or within an acceptable range? To what extent is the choice of the theory/model likely to lead to flaws in the project?
• Has the complexity of the topic been represented adequately? Does the (necessary) choice of the aspects the project will cover lead to an undue oversimplification? On the other hand, do you think that the project should be more focused, using less resources? If you think so, please explain why this would not jeopardize the aim of the project
• Is the choice of methods well substantiated? If you think that more/less/other methods would be more appropriate please provide reasons. If you do not fully agree with the choice of methodology: does the choice of methodology make the project futile? Would another methodology have the potential to generate better results with a similar requirement of resources? If more resources are needed for the alternative methodology: would this still be efficient? If you suggest omitting a method: what consequences does this have for the main research question? If you are not familiar with certain methods, please state so. If you feel that your review would benefit from the exchange with other reviewers who are familiar with those parts of the methodology, please state so
• Public health projects that reflect real life are usually full of contingencies. Have these contingencies been made explicit? Have the applicants explained how they will curtail risks and remedy potential deficiencies? Bear in mind that public health projects which reflect real life can often not be reduced to single hypotheses and require preparedness for dealing with new situations during the course of the project; these should not be reasons to reject or downgrade a proposal