Peer review’s irremediable flaws: Scientists’ perspectives on grant evaluation in Germany

Authors : Eva Barlösius, Laura Paruschke, Axel Philipps

Peer review has developed over time to become the established procedure for assessing and assuring the scientific quality of research. Nevertheless, the procedure has also been variously criticized as conservative, biased, and unfair, among other things. Do scientists regard all these flaws as equally problematic?

Do they have the same opinions on which problems are so serious that other selection procedures ought to be considered? The answers to these questions hints at what should be modified in peer review processes as a priority objective. The authors of this paper use survey data to examine how members of the scientific community weight different shortcomings of peer review processes.

Which of those processes’ problems do they consider less relevant? Which problems, on the other hand, do they judge to be beyond remedy? Our investigation shows that certain defects of peer review processes are indeed deemed irreparable: (1) legitimate quandaries in the process of fine-tuning the choice between equally eligible research proposals and in the selection of daring ideas; and (2) illegitimate problems due to networks. Science-policy measures to improve peer review processes should therefore clarify the distinction between field-specific remediable and irremediable flaws than is currently the case.

URL : Peer review’s irremediable flaws: Scientists’ perspectives on grant evaluation in Germany


“We Share All Data with Each Other”: Data-Sharing in Peer-to-Peer Relationships

Author : Eva Barlösius

Although the topic of data-sharing has boomed in the past few years, practices of datasharing have attracted only scant attention within working groups and scientific cooperation (peer-to-peer data-sharing).

To understand these practices, the author draws on Max Weber’s concept of social relationship, conceptualizing data-sharing as social action that takes place within a social relationship. The empirical material consists of interviews with 34 researchers representing five disciplines—linguistics, biology, psychology, computer sciences, and neurosciences.

The analysis identifies three social forms of data-sharing in peer-to-peer relationships: (a) closed communal sharing, which is based on a feeling of belonging together; (b) closed associative sharing, in which the participants act on the basis of an agreement; and (c) open associative sharing, which is oriented to “institutional imperatives” (Merton) and to formal regulations.

The study shows that far more data-sharing is occurring in scientific practice than seems to be apparent from a concept of open data alone. If the main goal of open-data policy programs is to encourage researchers to increase access to their data, it could be instructive to study the three forms of data-sharing to improve the understanding of why and how scientists make their data accessible to other researchers.

URL : “We Share All Data with Each Other”: Data-Sharing in Peer- to-Peer Relationships