Eliminating in-person NIH grant peer review and replacing thiswith online reviews will save millions annually. Also it will reduce time spent traveling by hundreds of scientist reviewers and NIH staff. It will reduce funds spent on hotels, travel, meeting space and per diem for all in person study section reviews. Research conducted by Alexander Pentland at MIT suggests project reviewers who watch in person presentations (for example venture capital presentations) tend to ignore the content of proposals and attend instead to the enthusiasm and body language of presenters. Thus in person peer review is likely to be biased toward the persuasiveness of the assigned reviewers and less related to the merits of what is actually written in the application. In contrast an online review in which reviewers simply read grant application content online and have no opportunity for a "primary reviewers" to present reviews will require that reviewers focus on the application itself and not some other reviewer's "interpretation" of its merits and non-verbal enthusiasm. Staff at NIH and the extramural scientist reviewers would like the public to believe that face to face review is a necessary but the reality is face to face review is a perk in which only elite scientists are invited to participate. Face to face reviews may be more beneficial to reviewers who get to travel than to applicants and they have a stake in maintaining the system. Currently many reviews do not occur face to face. No evidence exists that these online reviews are of poorer quality than face to face reviews. Additionally, technology now enables online forums in which reviewers who do have questions can interact with other reviewers without having to converse. Not only will an online only process be less expensive, it will be faster, and fairer. The beltway hotels and airlines and frequent flyer milage of reviewers and review officials will be the main casualties of eliminating face to face peer review.
Idea No. 1891