Peer-review-less grants, round 1

University College London (UCL), which last year linkurl:announced;http://www.the-scientist.com/blog/display/55282/ plans to award unorthodox research grants without robust peer review, deadlines, directives, or milestones, has linkurl:chosen;http://www.ucl.ac.uk/media/library/VentureLane its first awardee -- a biochemist who will study the evolutionary switch from simple to more complex cellular structures. The researcher, linkurl:Nick Lane,;http://www.nick-lane.net/index.html was deemed worth

Bob Grant
Bob Grant

Bob Grant is Editor in Chief of The Scientist, where he started in 2007 as a Staff Writer.

View full profile.


Learn about our editorial policies.

Oct 18, 2009
University College London (UCL), which last year linkurl:announced;http://www.the-scientist.com/blog/display/55282/ plans to award unorthodox research grants without robust peer review, deadlines, directives, or milestones, has linkurl:chosen;http://www.ucl.ac.uk/media/library/VentureLane its first awardee -- a biochemist who will study the evolutionary switch from simple to more complex cellular structures. The researcher, linkurl:Nick Lane,;http://www.nick-lane.net/index.html was deemed worthy of the funding, called the Venture Research Prize, not by a panel of peer reviewers, but by visiting UCL earth sciences professor (and creator of the award) linkurl:Don Braben;http://www.es.ucl.ac.uk/people/braben/ and UCL vice-provost for research linkurl:David Price.;http://www.ucl.ac.uk/es/people/price.htm After evaluating the submitted proposals, Braben and Price passed along a short list to UCL provost linkurl:Malcolm Grant,;http://www.ucl.ac.uk/provost/ who made the final decision. (The awards are available to UCL staff in any discipline.) Lane, who is also a science writer, book author, and past linkurl:contributor;http://www.the-scientist.com/news/display/55727/ to __The Scientist__, said in his winning proposal that he will switch "the emphasis in the evolution of complexity...
grants without robust peer review, deadlines, directives, or milestones, has linkurl:chosen;http://www.ucl.ac.uk/media/library/VentureLane its first awardee -- a biochemist who will study the evolutionary switch from simple to more complex cellular structures. The researcher, linkurl:Nick Lane,;http://www.nick-lane.net/index.html was deemed worthy of the funding, called the Venture Research Prize, not by a panel of peer reviewers, but by visiting UCL earth sciences professor (and creator of the award) linkurl:Don Braben;http://www.es.ucl.ac.uk/people/braben/ and UCL vice-provost for research linkurl:David Price.;http://www.ucl.ac.uk/es/people/price.htm After evaluating the submitted proposals, Braben and Price passed along a short list to UCL provost linkurl:Malcolm Grant,;http://www.ucl.ac.uk/provost/ who made the final decision. (The awards are available to UCL staff in any discipline.) Lane, who is also a science writer, book author, and past linkurl:contributor;http://www.the-scientist.com/news/display/55727/ to __The Scientist__, said in his winning proposal that he will switch "the emphasis in the evolution of complexity away from genes and morphology to the control of a dynamic process, chemiosmosis, over time." By picking up the thread of 1978 Nobel Prize winner linkurl:Peter Mitchell,;http://nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/chemistry/laureates/1978/mitchell-bio.html who won for demonstrating that cells respire via a proton gradient that spans membranes, Lane proposes to test the hypothesis that chemiosmosis -- which plays a role in a multitude of complex cellular processes -- is the key constraint on complexity. This will largely involve literature-based "theoretical" research, according to Lane. Lane, author of the recently published linkurl:__Life Ascending__,;http://www.amazon.com/Life-Ascending-Great-Inventions-Evolution/dp/0393065960 will get a total of approximately $246,000 over three years (£150,000, roughly equivalent to the salary of a reader, or mid-level academic) from the UCL Provost's office to conduct largely theoretical studies examining how and why complexity and the eukaryotic cell each only arose once throughout evolutionary history. "This will give me the freedom to work out my ideas on the evolution of complexity and hopefully change the way we all think about complex life," Lane wrote in an email to __The Scientist__. According to UCL spokesperson Dominique Fourniol, there is no timetable for when another Venture Research Prize will be awarded. "There's no rule that says there's one a month or one a year or anything like that," he told __The Scientist__. "The whole beauty of the system is that there's not a rule like that. The last thing you want to do is try to be restrictive."
**__Related stories:__***linkurl:Life Ascending;http://www.the-scientist.com/news/display/55727/
[21st May 2009]*linkurl:Grants without peer review?;http://www.the-scientist.com/blog/display/55282/
[12th December 2008]

Interested in reading more?

Become a Member of

Receive full access to more than 35 years of archives, as well as TS Digest, digital editions of The Scientist, feature stories, and much more!
Already a member?