Alexander Berezin berezin at MCMAIL.CIS.MCMASTER.CA
Thu Dec 7 14:15:55 EST 1995

Bill, thanks for the comments, just some more 
clarifications. Alex Berezin

On Thu, 7 Dec 1995, William Tivol wrote:

> Dear Alex,
> > I personally beleive that a system which combines 
> > both aspects (Don Forsdyke, somewhat cumbersome, called it
> > "bicameral review") is potentially the least error prone. 
> 	Sounds like it can work--especially if the project
> review is done without the investigator's name attached.


1) The scheme of blind proposals (reviewers don't know who is
the applicant), even if it is used somewhere now, is a very 
weird ideas for [ at least ] two reasons:

A. Any serious proposals must be supported the explicit
credentials of the proposer. This is essentially means
providing CV in one form, or another and the latter is
obviously impossible to do anonymously.

B. Any sensible person just be offended to review 
anonymous proposals as it implies that you (a reviewer)
is mistrusted. Issue of the reviewer anonymity is much
more involved and there are arguments and both side.
But authorless proposals is a clearly no-goer.         

2) Sliding scale in combination with (Forsdyke's) 
bicameral review means that track record (CV) and
proposals are reviewed separately (by unconnected
people) and the results are "summed" with perhaps
some weight cofficients. Very importants that the
results of 2 assessment are NOT "multiplied" as the
present system implicitely does. This assuers that
at least some funding level is awarded for as far 
as there is a passing score on either of the two.

Yes, some may build up examples when such scheme
will appear to be unfair. For example, proposals

"To study the nature of space and time by conducting
thought experiments"

will likely be funded once signed by Stephen Hawking,
but it certainly will be trashed if signed by an unknown
patent clerk in Zurich who has no track record.

However, such odditties, as mathematicians say, have
almost zero measure (i.e. extremely rare).   

> > 
> > I believe,
> > the university research community should strive to work out 
> > such slogan-like messages.
> 	I agree.  Something short and catchy is much more
> likely to have an effect than a 50-page report.
> > 
> > "With applying sliding-scale ranking of university researchers, 
> > rather than evaluating 'proposals' on a yes-no basis,
> 	Yes, the sliding-scale approach is the key.
> > you (the
> > politicians) will achieve singnificantly more efficient, and
> > ballanced and self-regulating research activity for SIGNIFICANTLY 
> > LESS money spend on it.

> 	I'm not sure that "significantly less" money will do the
> job; however, there should be savings both from administrative
> cost reductions and reductions in inefficient spending (which
> results from the current "use it or lose it" grant rules). 

We have to postpone the issue "it it enough money" till
the distribution problem is addressed, i.e. sliding scale
is introdueced as a ground-level approximation. ONLY THEN
we will be able to responsibly assess are "they" give 
enough money and if not how much more we need. 

Just "give us more" will not suffice we (research 
university community) much give them figure(s) how
much we will consider satisfactory, and why the
"present" level is "unsatisfactory". However, I personally
believe that to prove the case that "we don't have
enough money" is a damn difficult job as I have yet to
hear of a single case when the grant recipient refused to 
accept the award because the award was "too low".

(I appreciate if any-one can post a contr-example)


>  Of
> course, I agree that the use of these investigator-controlled
> funds for grad-student & post-doc support should end and the use
> of institute- (or country-) wide support directly to the personel
> would both end the slavery and allow for a rational number of
> people in the pipeline for scientific careers.  (I include such 
> things as forensic, business, etc.)

Agree. The fact that is that the G-students and post-docs 
in USA/Canada are paid by a professor is a source of numerous 
abuses, etc, and leads to a very dificult moral climate for 
the post-docs (one sadly said "post-dogs"). If post-doc is 
employed and PAID directly by the University, even if s/he 
is working WITH (not "FOR" !) a particular professor than
the system is instantly much more fair and humane. But
this is unlikely to be sold to the politicians at this time, 
as they are still obsessed with the idea of "competition" 
(or rather "competition-enforced excellence"). So, at this 
point I see reletively little chance that this issue can be 
meaninggfully addressed BEFORE the major curbing of 
grantsmanship mentality is achieved through the 
introduction of the sliding scale/bicameral review principle. 
The latter is much more likely to sell to the politicians,
as it involves a direct manipulation with $-signs: the 
language they (politicians) are trained to understand.     

> 				Yours,
> 				Bill Tivol

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