Reducing the peer review burden and raising grant success rates by passing a simple law
By Scott Reed
Pass a law that limits the total dollars that a research organization can request from the federal government to three times the average dollars they received in previous years. This would immediately change the average success rate of grants to one in three; a major improvement from current rates. Scientists would be free to spend more time in the lab and less time writing and reviewing grants.
How would this work? If an institution did not generate an internal screen for limiting applications, their grants would be assigned a random number and only the appropriate fraction would be sent on to the respective funding agency. Smart institutions would establish priorities that matched to their values (e.g. supporting young scientists or multidisciplinary science).
Asking institutions to screen grant applications based on their values would be a big change. But it is reasonable to ask institutions to share the burden of peer review and to play a roll in the process of selecting the best ideas. Regardless of how institutions responded, the burden of peer review would drop. Scientists would spend less time in DC, less time at the computer, and more time in the lab.