The wait continues for NIH Challenge Grant applicants

From Nature News (Nature 460, 676; 2009), by Meredith Wadman: Applicants for the coveted Challenge Grants issued by the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act learned the peer-review scores for their proposals late last month. Yet they received little in the way of certainty over whether those scores will translate into money come September, when the NIH will announce which grants it plans to fund. Competition for the US$1-million, two-year awards is fierce — the agency in Bethesda, Maryland, received more than 21,000 applications, and the NIH director’s office will fund  … Read more

No gender bias identified in peer-review of grant applications

NatureJobs reports on the contentious topic of possible gender bias in peer review (Nature 459, 602; 2009). Peer review assesses what is of value in science, yet it has been criticized for biases. One such perceived bias is gender, although evidence for such a bias has been contradictory. A 2007 meta-analysis (L. Bornmann et al. J. Informet. 1, 226–238; 2007; reported at the time in NatureJobs Nature 445, 566; 2007) concluded that women are at a disadvantage in peer review of funding applications. As this study incorporated all known research on this issue, it was suggested to be definitive.  Read more

Websites encourage direct public funding for research

The ‘SciFlies’ project, according to a Nature news story (Nature 459, 305; 2009), will profile scientists from a range of disciplines and the new ideas they want to pursue, or ways in which they would like to expand their current research programme. Website visitors will be able to donate any amount to support the projects they find most interesting or worthwhile.  Read more

Research council amends controversial grant-funding proposal

After a campaign by scientists, the UK Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) has softened and delayed its controversial policy to bar serially unsuccessful grant applicants from making funding bids for one year (Nature online News, 5 May 2009). The ban was due to be imposed on 229 researchers starting on 1 June, in an effort to reduce pressure on an overloaded system that currently peer-reviews all grant applications. But eight weeks after it published the policy (see Nature online news 19 March 2009 and Nature 458, 391; 2009), the EPSRC now says that the restriction will not come in until 1 April 2010 — giving scientists more time to change their grant-submission behaviour so that they do not fall under criteria defining repeated failure. And instead of being excluded outright, researchers will be allowed one application during the year.  Read more

Nature Neuroscience experience with peer-review consortium

In 2008, the journal Nature Neuroscience joined a newly created community consortium aimed at making peer review more efficient by allowing reviews to be transferred between consortium journals. In its current (April) issue, the editors look back at their experience with the Neuroscience Peer Review Consortium over the past year (Nature Neuroscience 12, 363; 2009).  Read more

The time it takes to review a paper

Brian Derby writes a post with the title Refereeing Chores at his Nature Network blog. Brian has refereed hundreds of papers in his scientific career, so he’s as experienced as it gets at the process. Even so, he writes about how it took half a day to reach his decision – to recommend rejection of the submitted paper – and had yet to write his report in suitably critical yet constructive tones for the author and journal.  Read more