Authors : Adrian G Barnett, Scott R. Glisson, Stephen Gallo
Decisions about which applications to fund are generally based on the mean scores of a panel of peer reviewers. As well as the mean, a large disagreement between peer reviewers may also be worth considering, as it may indicate a high-risk application with a high return.
We examined the peer reviewers’ scores for 227 funded applications submitted to the American Institute of Biological Sciences between 1999 and 2006. We examined the mean score and two measures of reviewer disagreement: the standard deviation and range.
The outcome variable was the relative citation ratio, which is the number of citations from all publications associated with the application, standardised by field and publication year.
There was a clear increase in relative citations for applications with a better mean. There was no association between relative citations and either of the two measures of disagreement.
We found no evidence that reviewer disagreement was able to identify applications with a higher than average return. However, this is the first study to empirically examine this association, and it would be useful to examine whether reviewer disagreement is associated with research impact in other funding schemes and in larger sample sizes.