Over 90% of government and charity research funding for biomedical science is allocated by peer review. The cost of this allocation process is estimated to be between 10% to 35% of the resources. Dr Steven Wooding, CSaP Lead for Research and Analysis, has recently completed a summary of the evidence on the effectiveness of, and burden imposed by, the grant peer review system.
The review, carried out for the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, highlighted the striking paucity of empirical evidence about such a fundamental process. However it was able to find evidence that peer review is biased against innovative proposals, and is a weak predictor of research performance. It also confirmed that peer review imposes a large burden on the research system, and highlighted that the majority of this burden falls on applicants.
Steve notes that 'given how little we know about this central process of science, and the array of concerns that have been raised, funders should be more willing to experiment, evaluate and share data to support research'.
On 17 November, Steve presented a summary of this work at a one-day workshop, "Peer review and grant funding: from evidence to practice" at the University of Melbourne in Australia. You can view a summary at https://storify.com/jod999/peer-review-and-grant-funding-from-evidence-to-pra. The full article is available here.
Steve's 13 minute talk is available below
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