Studying the Study Section: How Collaborative Decision Making and Videoconferencing Affects the Grant Peer Review Process

Working Paper No. 2015-06

Elizabeth L. Pier, Joshua Raclaw, Mitchell J. Nathan, Anna Kaatz, Molly Carnes, and Cecilia E. Ford

October 2015, 24 pp.

ABSTRACT: Grant peer review is a foundational component of scientific research. In the context of grant review meetings, the review process is a collaborative, socially mediated, locally constructed decision-making task. The current study examines how collaborative discussion affects reviewers' scores of grant proposals, how different review panels score the same proposals, and how the discourse practices of videoconference panels differ from in-person panels. Methodologically, we created and videotaped four "constructed study sections," recruiting biomedical scientists with U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) review experience and an NIH scientific review officer. These meetings provide a rich medium for investigating the process and outcomes of such authentic collaborative tasks. We discuss implications for research into the peer review process as well as for the broad enterprise of federally funded scientific research.

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keywords: Collaboration, Decision Making, Discourse Practices, Peer Review, Videoconferencing