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An Implicit Parallel (Take it for Grant-ed)

Posted by plosmedicine on 31 Mar 2009 at 00:32 GMT

Author: Alexander Scheeline
Position: Professor of Chemistry
Institution: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Submitted Date: October 28, 2008
Published Date: October 29, 2008
This comment was originally posted as a “Reader Response” on the publication date indicated above. All Reader Responses are now available as comments.

As with publication, even moreso with fund allocation. The implication of substituting "grant" for "article" and "program officer" for "editor" requires little additional modification to maintain a coherent editorial, yet the pitfalls of peer review, risk avoidance, herd mentality, and so on are familiar to many who seek research funding. I have often wondered if we took 50% of grant money and spent it on random proposals that were declined during review, 20 years later which would have been the better investment -- the approved or the "declined" proposals? Without spending money where we now don't, how do we have any empirical evidence that our peer review processes are acting in the interest of anyone other than bean counters, good ol' boys, and wordsmiths? Just as it is easier for a reviewer to block someone else's paper from publication than to write a good manuscript him/herself, so it is far easier to prevent someone else from getting funded than it is to obtain even modest resources for anything other than fashionable, partially-completed work.

Competing interests declared: I am the editor of the open access Journal of the Analytical Sciences Digital Library, an Open Access publication and thus involved with reviewing, accepting, and declining articles.