Peer Review, Funding

Alexander Berezin berezin at MCMAIL.CIS.MCMASTER.CA
Mon Jan 15 09:58:53 EST 1996

(much previous deleted)

On 14 Jan 1996, Ferland Louis H. wrote:

> On Sun, 14 Jan 1996 U27111 at UICVM.CC.UIC.EDU wrote:
> > (BEREZIN or KATHY, I can't recall)

Doesn't matter. We only start making progess in
science, when stop worrying 'who said what'.

[ snip ]
> But, who do you suggest decides who's the best and who's to 
> be phased out? (see also my next comments, below). 

In a sliding-base grants scheme this problem
will be largely eliminated. Those who will
gradually slip down will soomer or later face
the fact there is not much point for them to

The present 'selectivity' (yes-no) system does this
as well, but much to sharply and erratically - to
the point of being disfunctional and contr-productive
towards encouraging novelty and discovery.

[ snip ]   


> And I don't think the *best* ones can be identified at all (except, 
> perhaps, by a utopian peer-review process). 

The fallacious (silently assumed premiss here that 'best have
to be identified'. And 'identified' in this context means 
that 'best should be preferentially funded'. This is American
myth 'more money to best make them even better'.
No, all the 'best' need is to maintain AVERAGE funding level,
and they will do 'better than others' regardless.
Read Gospel one the Grapeard parable.    

> Please note the word "utopian" and do not consider I am 
> suggesting the present peer-review system qualifies. 

Yes, but it can be made qualified (at least much better
qualified than now) if openneness of all critical phases
will be introduced (in short, 'no' to anonymity). 

[ snip ] 

> Now, do you still think additional certification will 
> solve ANY part of the issue at hand? 

I am not sure about you, biomedicals dealing with 
people health, but in almost all other areas
certification (beyond degree like PhD) is clearly
no-starter, ('certified theoretical physisist' ?!). 

> every research group (in the world?) (which Berezin wants 
> to be limited in size to three people (!), see earlier 
> postings, though he later conceded he would accept 5 or 6 
> people under exceptional circumstances if I recall) would 
> be anything but an extremely heavy and costly process.


Louis, I think, you are still getting what I am saying 
from a somewhat wrong end. I am not particularly concerned 
with maximal group size or (formal) funding capping. 
I think there are much better ways to improve the system 
by starting from the reforming the system on side of the 
basic funding/sliding/de-anonymization mechanisms.

Yes, capping and and gropp size limits will be 
undesirable. It is a police-type approach and I 
won't recommend them UNLESS the community will 
adamantly reject the more sensible (above) approachers. 

However, personally I am sceptical. I think, none of the 
above will happen. Big systems generally show no ability 
to adapt, insist on business as usual and eventually collapse
under their own weight. So, personally, I believe
the whole system of 'funded academic research' (well, 
ALMOST all) will (rather soon) collapse altogether,
when public (and politicians) realise more clearly that 
this is just another black hole. 

But this is again, my personal opinion with which 
obviously some will disagree and keep insisting that 
selectivity, cut-throat competition, selection 
(and overfunding) of the 'best', and secrecies of all
kind in the way to go. Good luck in pleasant trip.   

[ rest snipped ]

> Dr. Louis H. Ferland
> Centre de Recherche, Hotel-Dieu de Montreal
> Dept de Nutrition, Universite de Montreal
> Phone: (514) 843-2757     FAX: (514) 843-2719

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