, Volume 87, Issue 2, pp 293–301 | Cite as

Peer review and over-competitive research funding fostering mainstream opinion to monopoly

  • Hui FangEmail author


The aim of peer review is to separate the wheat from the chaff for publication and research funding. In the excessive competition, this mechanism would only select the wheat of mainstream. Up to now, almost all discussions on the consequence of the short-comings of peer review are limited to qualitatively description. I propose a model of “peer-group-assessed-grant-based-funding-system” combined with tenure system and over-competitive research funding review process. It is the first on the quantitatively investigation which dramatizes the current short-comings of the process. My simulation shows that it takes about two or three generations of researchers for the mainstream of a complicated research topic obtaining monopoly supremacy, with only the aid of the mechanism the model described. Based on the computation results, suggestions are proposed to avoid loss of self-correction capability on popularity determined single research direction which could be wrong on very complicated research topics.


Peer review Research funding Excessive competition Mainstream Mathematical model Simulation 

Mathematics Subject Classification


JEL Classification

C15 C32 



I am grateful to Dr. W. Z. Wang (University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, USA) for helpful discussions. This work was supported by the National Basic Research Program of China under Grant 2011CBA00107.


  1. Alberts, B., Hanson, B., & Kelner, K. L. (2008). Reviewing peer review. Science, 321, 15.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Berezin, A. A. (2001). Discouragement of innovation by overcompetitive research funding. Interdisciplinary Science Reviews, 26, 97–102.Google Scholar
  3. Claveria, L. E., Guallar, E., Cami, J., Conde, J., Pastor, R., Ricoy, J. R., et al. (2000). Does peer review predict the performance of research projects in health sciences? Scientometrics, 47, 11–23.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Grivell, L. (2006). Through a glass darkly—the present and the future of editorial peer review. EMBO Reports, 7, 567–570.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Gura, T. (2002). Peer review, unmasked. Nature, 416, 258–260.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Horrobin, D. F. (1996). Peer review of grant applications: A harbinger of mediocrity in clinical research. Lancet, 348, 1293–1295.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Jayasinghe, U. W., Marsh, H. W., & Bond, N. (2001). Peer review in the funding of research in higher education: The Australian experience. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 23, 343–364.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Lawrence, P. A. (2003). The politics of publication. Nature, 422, 259–261.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Lerner, E. (2004). Bucking the big bang. New Scientist, 2448, 20.Google Scholar
  10. Neylon, C. (2009). Funding ban could break careers at the toss of a coin. Nature, 459, 641.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Perrin, W. F. (2008). In search of peer reviewers. Science, 319, 32.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Plerou, V., Amaral, L. A. N., Gopikrishnan, P., Meyer, M., & Stanley, H. E. (1999). Similarities between the growth dynamics of university research and of competitive economic activities. Nature, 400, 433–437.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Rocha, B. (2001). Trouble with peer review. Nature Immunology, 2, 277.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Scarpa, T. (2006). Peer review at NIH. Science, 311, 41.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Smith, R. (1997). Peer review: Reform or revolution? British Medical Journal, 315, 759–760.Google Scholar
  16. Spier, R. E. (2002a). The history of the peer-review process. Trends in Biotechnology, 20, 357–358.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Spier, R. E. (2002b). Peer review and innovation. Science and Engineering Ethics, 8, 99–108.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Spier, R. E., & Bird, S. J. (2003). On the management of funding of research in science and engineering. Science and Engineering Ethics, 9, 298–300.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Zucker, R. S. (2008). A peer review how-to. Science, 319, 32.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Akadémiai Kiadó, Budapest, Hungary 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Electronic Science and EngineeringNanjing UniversityNanjingChina

Personalised recommendations