The National Institutes of Health's effort to streamline its peer-review process by virtually dismissing, after cursory examination, as many as half the research proposals it receives is not a good idea. This experiment at whatUs come to be known as "triage" will not solve any of the problems facing United States science; indeed, it will create new ones.

Theoretically, early-stage identification and rejection of "noncompetitive" applications would relieve the pressure that burdens NIH scientific review administrators, project officers, and auxiliary staff who are overworked, demoralized, and under considerable stress. Reviewers, it is hoped, would have more time and presence of mind to consider in depth those comparatively few applications deemed at first glance to be especially virtuous.

However, reviewers' demoralization cannot be attributed to the large number of applications they must deal with; they are used to putting in grueling, 12-hour days. That is one of the qualifications for the...

Interested in reading more?

Become a Member of

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