Archive by category | Policy and Public

Sharing insights with researchers

The two Nature Geoscience Commentaries expressing opposing views on blogging’s role in science research communication have been much discussed in the blogosphere (see Climate Feedback blog, for example.). One discussion took place at RealClimate blog, where Gavin Schmidt’s post about his Nature Geoscience view on how science blogs and traditional peer-review intersect has attracted more than 100 online comments from climate scientists and others.  Read more

Will NIH’s overhaul be cosmetic or curative?

The first phase of the NIH review of the peer-review system was completed on 28 February , when the final draft of the 2007–2008 Peer Review Self-Study was submitted to NIH (US National Institutes of Health). In advance of NIH’s announcement this Spring about the changes to be implemented, this month’s (April) Editorial in Nature Medicine (14, 351; 2008) explores whether the NIH recommendations of a major overhaul of the system are likely to be cosmetic or curative.  Read more

Role of blogs in communicating scientific knowledge

Scientists know much more about their field than is ever published in peer-reviewed journals. Blogs can be a good medium with which to disseminate this tacit knowledge, according to Gavin Schmidt of the NASA Goddard Institute of Space Studies Columbia University, and co-founder of, in a Commentary in the April issue of Nature Geoscience (1, 208; 2008). Dr Schmidt asks “why read a blog when you can go directly to the scientific literature? Unfortunately, access to new findings in the traditional way is harder than it should be. Many technical papers are behind pay-walls, which make it impractical and expensive for unaffiliated individuals to read them. More importantly, however, even when papers are freely available, they often do not provide the insight expected.”  … Read more

Many grants to few researchers

In an analysis reported in a News story in Nature this week, 222 NIH grants: 22 researchers (Nature 452, 258-259; 2008), it emerges that 200 scientists received six or more grants each from the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) in 2007. One principal investigator was awarded 32 grants, and many others got eight or nine. This is counter to the recommendation last month by the advisory panels reviewing the NIH peer-review system that researchers should devote at least 20% of their time to any project awarded a research grant (see Nature 451, 1035; 2008).  Read more

How not to mix politics and science

In a blaze of colour on the 11 November ‘op-ed’ (invited opinion) page of The New York Times, some scientists proclaimed that, based on analysis of brain-imaging data from just a handful of swing voters, they had divined what the rest of the undecided masses truly think about the upcoming US presidential elections. Apparently just asking them was simply not good enough.  Read more

Should regulation of research be left to peers?

Mark Henderson in The Times yesterday (25 October 2007, page 36) reported the results of a survey of 204 researchers drawn from all levels in science, from the heads of major institutions to postdoctoral researchers and PhD candidates, concluding that “excessive regulation of science is damaging public confidence in research by creating a misleading impression that most of it is dangerous or ethically dubious.”  … Read more

NIH grant-assessment system under review

The (free access) Editorial in this week’s Nature (Nature 449, 115; 2007) argues that “the peer-review system used by the $29-billion National Institutes of Health (NIH) is more than half-a-century old, and is showing its age. It has become stretched by the breadth of today’s science, in which inter- and multidisciplinary grant applications are common, and by the sheer volume of submissions in an era in which one-grant labs have gone the way of the dinosaur……A radical transformation is urgently needed.”  … Read more