May 31, 2013
Scientific peer review experts describe benefits of peer review to researchers, reviewers, and science
In an opinion article published in the online version of The Scientist, three experts in scientific peer review describe often overlooked benefits of the peer review process.
Most scientists would generally agree that the primary reason for peer review of grant applications is to identify the strongest research proposals based on the intrinsic scientific merit, hypotheses being tested, and feasibility or likelihood of success for the proposed study approach. David Irwin, Stephen Gallo, and Scott Glisson note in the article, Learning from Peer Review (http://www.the-scientist.com/?articles.view/articleNo/35608/title/Opinion--Learning-from-Peer-Review/), that the peer review process does much more than this to move science forward.
The authors, who manage peer review of research programs for government and foundation funding sources, report that a survey of reviewers conducted by the American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS) found, "more than 70 percent felt that their participation in peer review was particularly useful in exposing them to emerging scientific areas and technologies." Indeed, many reviewers enjoy face-to-face panel meetings, as this type of meeting affords them time for interactions similar to those commonly found at professional scientific meetings and conferences.
Peer review is sometimes viewed as a mysterious process or a hurdle to be jumped in order to secure funding. "It shouldn't be viewed as a hurdle," states Irwin. "It is a mutually beneficial process that helps move science forward. It provides funders with essential information, but it also provides researchers - whether as a reviewer or reviewee - with a chance to carefully consider scientific questions, tools, techniques, and opportunities."
"Participation in the scientific peer review process is an exceptional opportunity for both new and seasoned faculty," states Glisson. Data show National Institutes of Health study section members have a higher success rate with their own applications than the general scientific community, with a current funding rate more than eight percent higher than the general success rate.
Gallo hopes that the broader benefits to science of peer review will be recognized. "It should be seen as an opportunity to share ideas, learn from others, and embrace the collective effort to move science forward."
The report in The Scientist is available at http://www.the-scientist.com/?articles.view/articleNo/35608/title/Opinion--Learning-from-Peer-Review/.