the other kind of peer review

I think a lot about peer review, but it’s almost all about the journals side of things – the related-but-not-the-same issues of open access and peer review.  And by that which is called “editorial peer review” to distinguish it from peer review in the grants/funding world, a kind of peer review that is probably much more important to a lot of people than the journals-specific kind.

But a couple of recent notes about the other kind of peer review jumped out at me and connected – what do these, taken together, suggest about how we = beyond higher ed, as a society and a culture – value knowledge creation.  Or maybe more what I mean is what do they suggest about how we should value knowledge creation.

First, there’s this note today from Female Science Professor.  She’s responding to another article in Slate, but it’s the piece she’s responding to that I am interested in here too as well – the amount of time that faculty in different disciplines (and in different environments) spend writing proposals to get funding for their research.  The Slate article includes a quote suggesting that med school faculty at Penn spend half their time writing grant proposals.  That number has increased, it goes on to suggest, because of the effort to get in on stimulus funding.

The comments, with a few exceptions, suggest that the 50% number is not out of line in that environment.

So that, connected with this item from EcoTone last month – has to make you think, right?

(quoting the abstract of an article in Accountability in Research)  Using Natural Science and Engineering Research Council Canada (NSERC) statistics, we show that the $40,000 (Canadian) cost of preparation for a grant application and rejection by peer review in 2007 exceeded that of giving every qualified investigator a direct baseline discovery grant of $30,000 (average grant).

Obviously, there are stark differences in scope and scale between these disciplines.  Also obviously, the process of writing grant proposals isn’t entirely divorced from the goal of knowledge creation – the researcher undoubtedly benefits from going through the process – the project benefits from the work donw on the proposals – in some ways.

In others, they are undoubtedly a distraction, and the process becomes more about the process than about the knowledge creation.  No solutions offered here, not even a coherent articulation of a problem, more like it just makes you wonder what it says about us when, within the knowledge creation process itself, the problems and issues of getting funding take precedence over the problems and issues connected to the direct experience of creating new knowledge.

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