History Lesson

Your article "Nobelists Beat Adversity to Advance Science" (P. Smaglik, The Scientist, Dec. 8, 1997, page 1) should be a renewed lesson in the history of science to individuals responsible for grant evaluations at the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation. The extant peer-review system forces scientists to fit their work and hypotheses into currently accepted paradigms and ignores the fact that scientific discoveries or technological developments during the next gran

Nejat nes
Mar 15, 1998

Your article "Nobelists Beat Adversity to Advance Science" (P. Smaglik, The Scientist, Dec. 8, 1997, page 1) should be a renewed lesson in the history of science to individuals responsible for grant evaluations at the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation. The extant peer-review system forces scientists to fit their work and hypotheses into currently accepted paradigms and ignores the fact that scientific discoveries or technological developments during the next grant period cannot necessarily be predicted and spelled out in a grant application. The "likelihood of success" criterion used to fund grant applications would never hold for groundbreaking scientific work, which by nature may be more likely to fail initially than to succeed.

Funding agencies expect scientists to provide extensive "preliminary" data to consider funding a project. This, however, implies that the basic discoveries have already been made and that the research leading to...