Alexander Berezin berezin at MCMAIL.CIS.MCMASTER.CA
Sat Apr 27 10:09:30 EST 1996

On Thu, 25 Apr 1996, Patrick wrote:

> On 22 Apr 1996, Alexander Berezin wrote:
> >  Get rid of proposals-based science, secretive 
> > peer review and fund researchers, not proposas.
> [...]
> And allow any goofy idea to be researched with no evidence that it is 
> based in any way on extensive thought, logic, planning, or sound 
> underpinnings?  There MUST be a means of screening out chaff.  An idea, 
> in and of itself, is NOT good enough.  

(1) On goofy ideas: 

If you take trouble to read on the history of science 
(ANY area) you will find that with rare some exceptions
essentailly ALL new things in science came up as goofy
ideas. Some charlatans incude: Paster (germ idea),
Georg Cantor (mathematical idea of infinities),
Boltzman and scores of others. Goofy ideas is the 
only source of science progress. Sorry.  

(2) On peer review

If you want to understand what peer review can and
can not do study some work from the following list.
At the very least papers by Horrobin, Osmond and 


Berezin, A. A. (1993). The SSC and peer review. Physics World 
(Dec.), 19. 

Berezin, A. A., R. Gordon & G. Hunter (1995). Anonymous peer   
     review and the QWERTY effect. Amer. Physics Soc. News,  
     March 1995. 

Berezin, A. A. & G. Hunter (1994). Myth of competition and NSERC
     policy of selectivity. Canadian Chemical News  46(3), 4-5. 

Forsdyke, D. R. (1983). Canadian medical research strategy for    
     the Eighties I. Damage-limitation or superelitism? Med.      
     Hypotheses  11, 141-145. 

Forsdyke, D. R. (1983). Canadian medical research strategy for    
     the Eighties II. Promise or performance as the basis for the 
     distribution of research funds? Med. Hypotheses  11,         

Forsdyke, D. R. (1989). Sudden-death funding system. FASEB J.     
     3(10), 2221. 

Forsdyke, D. R. (1989). A systems analyst asks about AIDS         
     research funding. Lancet  2(December 9), 1382-1384. 

Forsdyke, D. R. (1991). Bicameral grant review: an alternative to 
     conventional peer review. FASEB J.  5, 2312-2314. 

Forsdyke, D. R. (1992). Bicameral grant review: how a systems     
     analyst with AIDS would reform research funding.
     Accountability in Research  3, 1-5. 

Forsdyke, D. R. (1993). On giraffes and peer review. FASEB J.  7, 

Forsdyke, D. R.(1994). Authorship and misconduct. Nature 370, 91. 

Forsdyke, D. R. (1994). A theoretical basis for accepting         
     undergraduate academic record as a predictor of subsequent   
     success in a research career. Implications for peer review.  
     Accountability in Research  3, 269-274. 

Gordon, R. (1993). Grant agencies versus the search for truth. 
     Accountability in Research: Policies and Quality Assurance   
     2, 1-5. 

Gordon, R. (1993). Alternative reviews. University Affairs        
     (Assoc.of Universities and Colleges of Canada) 34(6), 26. 

Horrobin, D. (1981/1982). Peer review: Is the good the enemy of   
     the best?  J. Res. Communic. Stud.  3, 327-334. 

Horrobin, D. F. (1990). The philosophical basis of peer review    
     and the suppression of innovation. J. Amer. Med. Assoc.      
     263(10), 1438-1441. 

Kenward, Michael. (1984). Peer review and the axe murderers",
     New Scientist, 102 (1412), p. 13 (31 May, 1984). 

McCutchen, Charles W. (1991). Peer Review: Treacherous Servant,
     Disastrous Master. Technology Review, vol. 94, #7,  
     (October 1991), 28-40.

Osmond, D. H. (1983). Malice's Wonderland: research funding and   
     peer review. J. Neurobiol.  14(2), 95-112.

Savan, Beth. (1990). Science Under Siege (The Myth of             
     Objectivity in Scientific Research, CBC Enterprises,         
     Toronto, 1988. 

Szent-Gyorgyi, Albert. (1972). Dionysians and                     
      Apollonians, Science, 176, 966 (1972).

> > Introduce funding caps for the total per researcher.
> > I think, $ 200,000 per prof per year is a very
> > generous cap in ANY area (those who need more must 
> > cooperate with others).  
> [...]
> And scientific advancement would slow to a crawl.  I work in a small lab 
> with 3 grad students and 1 postdoc.  $200,000 doesn't go very far.  
> Cappechi (Mr Knockout mouse) wouldn't get much REAL work done on a 
> measely $200,000 a year.

Nonsense. Michael Faraday had only one lifetime technician
and did what his biographers count as at least equivalent
to 4 Nobel Prizes. In modern science building up big teams
is the most efficient cover up of shortage of ideas.

You can do wonderful work with very small teams and 
economical budget if you have ideas and abilities.
The team you descibe above sounds optimal. Anything
(significantly) larger is likely a copycat shop.

> > And you won't 'convince' anyone (especialy the 'majority
> > of electorate) for as long as the system remains publicly 
> > unaccountable secretive grantsmanship. What people REALLY
> > see is a corporate, greedy, self-serving system which
> > resisists openness at all levels. Why people should trust 
> > such system at first place ?
> The general public is NOT capable of making judgements on what is worth 
> funding and what isn't. 

And expertocracy is in no way better better. Actually, it
is worse as it the 'already knows' that 'it can't be done' 
(hundreds of examples)

> All they can do is listen to partisan 
> politicians and let them give them opinions to hold to.  

Same do peer reviewers by protecting the established
turf and eradicating anything departing the party line.
'To put new ideas to a grant proposal is to committ
scientific suicide' (recent paper on peer review).

> In general, only scientists know and understand what is valuable areas of 
> study (as a group...individual scientists are not immune to parochial 
> interest...which is where peer review comes in handy).  

Fallacy of the 'group wisdom'.
In my young years in USSR: 'individual communists can
make mistakes but Party is always right'. Read Orwell.

> You can only get 
> so far in explaining in simplistic terms to an undereducated public (and 
> a moronic politician) what research is needed and useful and why.

'Any good theory should be explainable to a barmaid'
Ernest Rutherford

Alex Berezin

> patrick

More information about the Bioforum mailing list