Monday, 12 October 2009

Taking a Punt on Peer Review

Roland Harwood, in a somewhat aged blog entry (April 2009! Ancient!), questions the established system of peer review that favours a narrow elite. The reviewing of funding applications should, he suggests, be opened up to 'the concept of markets.' He quotes Eric Weinstein of the Natron Group, a hedge fund in New York, who says that the current system 'strongly rewards those scientists doing more or less routine technical work in established fields, and punishes more risky work exploring unproven ideas that may take a considerable period of time to reach maturity.'

Weinstein's alternative might be a little radical for some tastes: 'Make scientists back up their criticisms by taking real financial risks. You think that some new theory is utterly worthless and deserving of ridicule? In the world Weinstein envisions, you could not trash the research in an anonymous review, but would buy some sort of option giving you a financial stake in its scientific future, an instrument that would pay off if, as you expect, the work slides noiselessly into obscurity. The money would come from the theory’s proponents, who would similarly benefit if it pans out into the next big thing.'

Hmm. Well don't hold your breath as you clutch your application for 'the unified theory of everything'...

Thanks to Steven Hill for highlighting this blog.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Phil,

    Curious to know what you think about the idea. Your penultimate sentence would imply you weren't bowled over by the idea but I'd be interested to hear a little more of your thoughts.