AN HONEST APPRAISAL OF PEER REVIEW

Phil Koopman koopman at cs.cmu.edu
Mon Jun 17 09:50:41 EST 1996


Bert Gold <bgold at itsa.ucsf.edu> wrote:
>PAPER in FASEB Journal (1993) volume 7  pages 619-621
>On giraffes and peer review
>D. R. FORSDYKE
>
>Department of Biochemistry, Queen's University, Kingston,
>Ontario, Canada. K7L3N6

Peer review could also happen because the people in charge of the
money aren't able to make the decisions themselves.  For example, with
increased specialization it is hard to be knowledgeable enough to make
decisions across a large field of competing requests.  In my mind this
is a significant driving force that has to be dealt with (bicameral
review might work -- I don't know much about it).

I recently came from an industrial lab where the funding allocation
changed from "benign" dictatorship to a group-grope model.  IMHO
productivity plunged as people spent most of their time chasing a pool
of money that diminished with each downsizing (sound familiar?).

There are three problems with any such system:

- How do you find and fund the important radical new idea (especially
in the face having to sift through the chaff of poorly researched new
ideas that are simply recastings of old tired ideas).  The best ideas
tend to upset the entrenched Establishment.

- How do you break the feedback of a dead-end research topic that has
gained momentum (and thus is supported by researchers all praising the
others' work)?

- *ANY* system is capable of being "gamed", and will be so in the face
of inadequate resources.  How do you minimize the resources spent
gaming the system?  IMHO a system that tends to bring dirty laundry
out into the open is the best way to go, although no system is
perfect.

-- Phil


Phil Koopman -- koopman at cs.cmu.edu -- http://www.cs.cmu.edu/~koopman



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