WASHINGTON - Terry B. Kinney Jr., administrator of the Agricultural Research Service (ARS), hopes that his retirement this spring will be accompanied by an end to the criticism that the agency has lagged behind other federal science agencies in its use of peer review for awarding grants.

The issue, which has dogged the U.S. Department of Agriculture's food and agricultural research programs for years, came into sharp focus last year in a National Research Council report that criticized several aspects of ARS project peer review (see THE SCIENTIST August 10, 1987, p. 7). The report charged that ARS scientists and staff neither understand peer review's proper role nor agree on its purpose, often viewing it as "busy work."

In a subsequent letter to Charles Benbrook, executive director of the NRC's Board on Agriculture, Kinney outlined ARS's reactions to the recommendations. He said he agreed with about two-thirds of them, and...

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