(NIH)

A radical change in peer review

Jeff tries to explain how government works to readers of Science.

A recent pilot project by the National Science Foundation (NSF) aimed at easing the strain on its vaunted merit review system featured an unusual twist: Grant applicants were required to review seven proposals from peers competing for the same pot of money. The approach created a captive—and highly motivated—pool of reviewers for program managers within NSF's Civil, Mechanical and Manufacturing Innovation Division, saving them time. And using mail reviews rather than panels also saved NSF money. The quality of the reviews also seemed to be comparable to what is generated with NSF's traditional approach to peer review. NSF officials are weighing whether to expand the pilot to other programs.

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