Peer Review: Reply to Harriman

Gregory R. Harriman gregoryh at
Fri Nov 3 17:06:18 EST 1995

In article <Pine.3.89.9511031409.A9059-0100000 at mcmail.CIS.McMaster.CA>,
Alexander Berezin <berezin at mcmail.CIS.McMaster.CA> wrote:
> > You say that anyone who wants to do an experiment 
> > should be funded.  
> No, not a single bit. 

I guess I have trouble understanding English.  But what you wrote in a
previous post was: "anyone who wants to do an experiment should be

> What I am saying is that ONLY
> people who have clearly demonstarted that they are able 
> to do research AND produce impactful results (not just 
> papers) should be funded (within reasonable resources, 
> of course, which in practice means sliding scale) be 
> funded to conduct further studies.

Where I am having difficulty is in understanding how you propose to ASSESS
whether researchers have "clearly demonstarted (sic) that they are able to
do research".  It seems obvious that someone (a peer perhaps?) would have
to determine this.  How does this differ in a meaningful way from peer

> I am against anonymity, 
> not against peer review altigether, as I explained
> earlier).

Here, I think we come closer to agreement.  There are certainly problems
with the current method of peer review.  This could and should be improved
upon.  I don't pretend to have all the answers (unlike some) but perhaps
providing anonymity to the researcher who submits a manuscript or grant
for review might be a step in the right direction.

> To assess CV is a much more reliable proceedure than
> to assess "proposals" (futurology - i.e. the work yet
> to be done). The evaluation of the impact of ALREADY
> DONE work is much less error prone than the 
> evaluation of chances that the PROMISED work will be 
> done (we all can make a lot of promises). If system 
> will eventually return to the formula "fund RESERCHERS, 
> not proposals", proposal evaluation (and grant writing) 
> will not be neccessary altogether. (this is what the
> paper shuffling funding bureaucracy resists by obvious 
> reasons).
I do agree that track record should count for something.  The question is
how and who determines what your track record is?  And how would this
method of evaluation avoid the same problems and shortcomings of the
current system?  I doubt I am the only one who has heard comments made by
other researchers that the track record of the investigator (ie. the
quantity and quality of the CV) is what's important in a grant
application, not the quality of the scientific proposal.  If this attitude
doesn't facilitate abuse and perpetuation of an old boy's network, then I
don't know what does.  How can a new or struggling investigator (even if
they have a great idea) hope to be successful with this kind of an
> > 

Greg Harriman

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