I should state at the outset that I have no ax to grind. I retired as a professor of physiology a few years ago and no longer apply for research grants. In my time, I have seen the system from both sides, from that of a study section and mostly as a recipient of sensible and, on occasion, senseless evaluations.

Reading your report on the National Institutes of Health's new system for evaluating research grants (R. Finn, The Scientist, Aug. 18, 1997, page 1) filled me with apprehension. Investigators and study sections evaluating grant applications are both in the business of trying to predict the future. It is not unfair, therefore, to judge NIH's new system by the same criteria by which it proposes to evaluate research grants. Three of these are:

Significance: If the new procedure for evaluating grant applications is put in place, in what...

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