Scientific Advisory Committee (SAC)
The Neurological Foundation uses a peer-review system to evaluate research applications. Although the Foundation’s National Council makes the final decisions regarding allocation of funds for research they rely heavily on expert advice from the Scientific Advisory Committee (SAC). The 12-member SAC is composed of clinical neurologists and neurosurgeons, psychologists and neuroscientists, each with vast research experience, plus a representative from the National Council, and the Council chairman.
All members of the SAC review all applications to the Foundation and individual SAC members prepare a detailed report on one or two Project and/or Small Project (under $10,000) applications that fall within their area of expertise. Each project application is also reviewed and scored by at least five independent experts in the relevant field (usually from overseas) and their comments are factored into the SAC members’ report. Small Project applications are not externally reviewed.
At the twice-yearly SAC meetings reports on the individual proposals are presented and debated and a vote is taken to accept or reject the application. If the majority is in favour of funding the research project each SAC member then scores the application according to the view of its merit and these scores are used to rank the research proposals. When all applications have been considered they are listed in order of merit and the amount required to fund the approved applications is reviewed in light of the funds allocated for the research round. It is usually necessary to draw a line if the cost of approved research exceeds the budget available. In this way the Neurological Foundation ensures that the money available is used to fund only the best neuroscience research.
The first Scientific Advisory Committee meeting was held in Wellington on 3 July 1972. Eight people interested in neuroscience were present. Three research projects were approved and grants totaling $12,500 (worth around $100,000 today) were awarded.