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Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Peer Uprising: Canadian Researchers Demand End To Peer-Review Changes

In Canada, Outraged Health Researchers Demand End to Peer-Review Changes

Wayne Kondro | July 1, 2016

Someday, historians might call it the Peer Uprising.
Nearly 1000 Canadian researchers are demanding that the government immediately reverse “radical” changes that the nation’s main biomedical research funder has made to its grantsmaking process, arguing that they are wreaking havoc on the science community. In particular, the researchers want the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) to reinstate face-to-face meetings of peer-review panels, which the agency has ended in favor of an online system for evaluating grant proposals.

Open Letter to the Minister of Health, the Honourable Jane Philpott,

Dear Minister Philpott,
We, the undersigned, wish to address the imminent crisis facing Canadian health researchers. We are sure that you have already heard of the significant and broadly based concerns of this research community regarding the reformed programs and peer review processes at CIHR, but we wish to explain the current situation and why immediate action is imperative.
Funding the best science is the keystone of national science agendas that aim to achieve the highest and most lasting impact. Thus, a funding agency’s primary job is to ensure that it effectively selects the very best research proposals to receive funding. It is by no means an easy task as quality assessment is about judging future promise and by its very nature, research is unpredictable and risky and requires expert peer evaluation. Scientific research is also a global activity where there are no silver or bronze medals. Canada competes with the best in the world (and has done very well). It was therefore with considerable trepidation that we, as a research community, watched the CIHR propose and implement a radical series of changes to both its primary investigator-initiated research programs and to its methodology for peer review, colloquially known as the “Reforms”. Common sense would dictate that reforms be implemented carefully to avoid harming the very research infrastructure they are meant to support. However, the CIHR chose a different route. They implemented 3 distinct reforms simultaneously; 1) they changed the grant funding streams; 2) they changed the grant writing process and 3) they abandoned the international gold standard of face-to-face peer review.

<more at; related articles and links: (Open Letter to Hon. Jane Pilpott, Minister of Health, explaining critical concerns of CIHR peer review quality. June 27, 2016) and (Letter to the U15 – Group of Canadian Research Universities. February 16, 2016)>

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