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Wood F, Wessely S. Peer Review of Grant Applications: A Systematic Review. 2003.
Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://e-publications.une.edu.au/1959.11/515
Peer Review of Grant Applications: A Systematic Review
This chapter presents a systematic review of the empirical literature on peer review and grant applications. As a base for interpreting this review, brief historical and contextual information about research grant funding agencies and the peer review process is provided. The authors stress that peer review is only one means to an end - it is not the end itself. There have been numerous criticisms of peer review in the context of grant giving, chiefly centred on claims of bias, inefficiency, and suppression of innovation. We conclude here that, with certain exceptions, peer review processes as operated by the major funding bodies are generally fair. The major tension exists in finding reviewers free from conflict of interest who are also true peers. We find little evidence to support a greater use of "blind" reviewing, or of replacing peer review by some form of citation analysis. The chapter draws attention to the increased costs in both time and resources devoted to peer review of grant applications, and suggests that some reforms are now necessary. We are unable to substantiate or refute the charge that peer review suppresses innovation in science in general we conclude that peer review is an effective mechanism for preventing the wastage of resources on poor science - but whether it supports the truly innovative and inspirational science remains unanswerable. Finally, the chapter draws attention to the paucity of empirical research in an area of crucial importance to the health of science and recommends that ways for improving international understanding, debate, and sharing of "best practice" about peer review of grants be investigated.