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NIH Peers At Its Own Peer-Review Process

At least six experiments are aimed at improving the odds for innovative, cross disciplinary, and high-risk proposals WASHINGTON—The National Institutes of Health is changing the way that it does business with the research community. More than a half-dozen experiments are underway to improve the peer-review system—the tool NIH uses to weed out nearly two-thirds of the proposals it examines from those it will find. Most researchers consider peer review to be a pillar of science, ran

Jeffrey Mervis
At least six experiments are aimed at improving the odds for innovative, cross disciplinary, and high-risk proposals

WASHINGTON—The National Institutes of Health is changing the way that it does business with the research community. More than a half-dozen experiments are underway to improve the peer-review system—the tool NIH uses to weed out nearly two-thirds of the proposals it examines from those it will find.

Most researchers consider peer review to be a pillar of science, ranking with motherhood and apple pie as paragons of virtue in an imperfect world. At the same time, many complain that its vision is a conservative one that favors the tried and true. While those criticisms are not new (see The Scientist, May 16, page 21; and July 11, page 13), they resurfaced repeatedly during a recent cycle of meetings held across the country on federal support for biomedical research.

Those criticisms have nourished a...

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