Peer Review: WHO pays?

Gregory R. Harriman gregoryh at
Fri Nov 3 13:48:23 EST 1995

In article <Pine.3.89.9511030911.A13466-0100000 at mcmail.CIS.McMaster.CA>,
berezin at MCMAIL.CIS.MCMASTER.CA (Alexander Berezin) wrote:
* (much deleted)
** -"anyone who wants to do an experiment should be funded":
** -precisely, for as long as he/she can reliably demonstate
** -his/her qualifications (track record assessment - I am
** -NOT against this and this is NOT a peer review). 
* (CLARK): 
** So would you be happier if we called APR "research product assessment"?
** I fail to see any substantive difference between peer review of grants
** and peer review of manuscripts. 
* I am not talking here about the difference between PR for
* grants and manuscripts. I am talking about the "track record
* assessment" (to determine the funding level) which is NOT
* peer review by the following reasons:
* In APR (both of grants and manuscripts) the reviewers 
* (peers: by definition your competitors) have access to 
* the priveledged (yet unpublished) information.
* Much of recent criticism of APR was related to the
* unlawful use of this priveledge information (in short,
* intellectual theft). (this is not to say that all APRers 
* are thiefs, but some unfortunately are).
* In assessing track record (actually, you CV), only
* ALREADY PUBLISHED work is considerd, so all of it is 
* a public domain information the reviewers have no 
* advantages in comparison with all the rest.       

     I am having a real problem accepting this line of reasoning.  I'm
afraid it sounds very circular if not specious.  You say that anyone who
wants to do an experiment should be funded.  You indicate that their track
record should be used to determine their funding level.  Next you say that
their track record should be based on their publications (CV).  But in
earlier posts you have argued that scientists should be allowed to publish
anything they want without prior peer review (so called option B).  

     If one follows the logic of this, the result will be: anyone doing
research of any kind or quality will always be able to publish their
papers.  Consequently, every scientist will have an extensive publication
record and therefore will be qualified to receive as much funding as they
want.  Sounds wonderful!  There are unfortunately a few problems.  First,
there is not an infinite amount of money for research.  Second, how do you
distinguish between research which is high quality and valid versus that
which is garbage?

Gregory Harriman

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