Peer Review, Funding
Ferland Louis H.
ferlandl at ERE.UMontreal.CA
Mon Jan 15 12:25:50 EST 1996
On Mon, 15 Jan 1996, Alexander Berezin wrote:
> Date: Mon, 15 Jan 1996 09:56:47 -0500 (EST)
> From: Alexander Berezin <berezin at mcmail.CIS.McMaster.CA>
> To: "Ferland Louis H." <ferlandl at ere.umontreal.ca>
> Cc: bioforum at net.bio.net
> Subject: Peer Review, Funding
> (much previous deleted)
> On 14 Jan 1996, Ferland Louis H. wrote:
> [ snip ]
> > (FERLAND)
> > 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.
About this first point, I'm not sure, but it is an interesting concept
(with more substance than what Kathy had posted and to which I was
replying). For the second point, I agree with you that the "yes-no"
system is much too sharp and "phases out" some (many?) of the "good
> [ 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.
I'm not convinced that *the best* (or anyone, for that matter) will,
really thrive and continue to progress without the proverbial carrot:
once one has reached the average, there would be nothing more to expect
from one's carreer. I really mean carreer-wise: of course, research
starts with goals, and attempting to reach those scientific goals is a main
stimulant to work hard. However, I think it would be a mistake to remove
the "career" incentives. Actually, I'll go further than that: I really
think that success should be rewarded. How success is assessed and how it
should be rewarded, however, are two further and separate questions.
> > 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' ?!).
So is it with us, biomedicals, IMHO.
> > 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.
Apologies for not putting the emphasis on your main points.
> 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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