The demands of consulting practice (and apparently, of claim review) frequently result in the use of technical interviewers or claim reviewers who have, ultimately, an area of specific technical competence and at the minimum, a strong awareness of “what SR&ED looks like” based on their own technical backgrounds and their growing experience (and exposure to specific industry groups) as SR&ED practitioners. So the requirement for specifically applicable skill-sets and qualifications rapidly morphs into a broader awareness of the SR&ED domain, in which experience and SR&ED knowledge supersede specific competencies. SR&ED “Scientists” are frequently cross-assigned to areas where their experience and detailed SR&ED knowledge is expected to carry them through.
The experienced practitioner, working away from his or her own preferred subject domain, will recognize the signs of SR&ED, and will ask the necessary questions from the SME they are interviewing, such as: “how does this problem go beyond the boundaries of standard practice?” and “Why was this an advancement?”. They will, in effect, supplement their own backgrounds with the voice and experience and judgment of the SME who did the work.
This doesn’t always work out well, but often enough, it works.
As discussed in my previous article, on Cognitive Interviewing, sometimes the “SR&ED Scientist” assigned to prepare or review a claim may “overlay” the interviewing or the review process with their own prior knowledge, experience and assumptions, to the extent that those experiences and assumptions are allowed to interfere with the interviewing or assessment processes. The very knowledge and experience that we demand of them may prevent them from understanding what they are being told, or indeed, from listening or perceiving with an open mind. It’s easy to rush to judgment, and there are strong pressures to do so.
However, given that the SRED Scientists do not always end up applying their skills in their precise areas of expertise, and given that SR&ED knowledge becomes increasingly vital, might there not be a place within the SR&ED practitioner team for an expert interviewer (whether or not that person was a SR&ED Scientist by training?) And conversely, might there not be some real gains to be made, in SR&ED practice, by ensuring that SR&ED practitioners receive some training in advanced interviewing techniques? That is, I hope, more food for thought.