…lotteries to pick NIH research-grant recipients

Wall Street Journal op-ed advocates lotteries to pick NIH research-grant recipients by Steven T. Corneliussen

From the post:

The subhead for the Wall Street Journal op-ed “Taking the Powerball approach to funding medical research” summarizes its coauthors’ argument about research funding at the National Institutes of Health (NIH): “Winning a government grant is already a crapshoot. Making it official by running a lottery would be an improvement.”

The coauthors, Ferric C. Fang and Arturo Casadevall, serve respectively as a professor of laboratory medicine and microbiology at the University of Washington School of Medicine and as professor and chairman of microbiology and immunology at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University.

At a time when funding levels are historically low, they note, grant peer review remains expensive. The NIH Center for Scientific Review has a $110 million annual budget. Grant-submission and grant-review processes extract an additional high toll from participants. Within this context, the coauthors summarize criticisms of NIH peer review. They mention a 2012 Nature commentary that argued, they say, that the system’s structure “encourages conformity.” In particular, after mentioning a study in the journal Circulation Research, they propose that concerning projects judged good enough for funding, “NIH peer reviewers fare no better than random chance when it comes to predicting how well grant recipients will perform.”

Nature should use a “mock” lottery to judge the acceptance of papers along side its normal peer review process. Publish the results after a year of peer review “competing” with a lottery.

Care to speculate on the results as evaluated by Nature readers?

One Response to “…lotteries to pick NIH research-grant recipients”

  1. […] considering recent reports that peer review is no better than random chance for grants (…lotteries to pick NIH research-grant recipients and the not infrequent reports of false papers, fraud in actual papers, and a general inability to […]