The commentaries on the problems of National Institutes of Health study sections by both Charles W. McCutchen [page 12] and Arthur E. Sowers [page 13] in the Oct. 16, 1995, issue of The Scientist were very insightful. The "kangaroo Politburos" problem is a major one and difficult to correct. I suggest an improvement. NIH should publicize study section openings. Then nominations for these positions should be held at a national meeting appropriate to each study section and voted on after discussion. Those elected should be unequivocally the new entrants to the study section.
Although not foolproof, this opens up the process to the scientific community and reduces concealed cronyism between powerful government agencies and influential cliques.
Other improvements can also be suggested, such as a similar exposure of government-directed non-R01 projects; ceilings on government funding to any one scientist or laboratory; the elimination of politically influenced center grants and...
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