Peer Review

Rustum Roy in his Commentary (“ ‘Soft Cheating’ Is More Harmful To Science Than Cases Of Outright Fraud,” The Scientist, Sept. 18, 1989, page 14) is confused in his allegation that the “funding process [of peer review] Is... tainted by a built-in conflict of interest.” Though it is true that the scientists most likely to review a proposal are the very ones whose pool of available money will be depleted if they give a proposal a top grade, this fact nearly en

Michael Stuart Loop
Nov 12, 1989

Rustum Roy in his Commentary (“ ‘Soft Cheating’ Is More Harmful To Science Than Cases Of Outright Fraud,” The Scientist, Sept. 18, 1989, page 14) is confused in his allegation that the “funding process [of peer review] Is... tainted by a built-in conflict of interest.” Though it is true that the scientists most likely to review a proposal are the very ones whose pool of available money will be depleted if they give a proposal a top grade, this fact nearly ensures that only the consensus best will be funded..

Every review group knows that some percentage of the grants they review will be funded, and they have no conceivable incentive to select the poor proposals over good ones.

Roy’s suggestion that scientists review proposals outside their funding pool would not eliminate conflict of interest (Where none exists), but it would eliminate the expert, informed judgments that are the...

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