The Participation and Motivations of Grant Peer Reviewers: A Comprehensive Survey

  • Stephen A. GalloEmail author
  • Lisa A. Thompson
  • Karen B. Schmaling
  • Scott R. Glisson
Original Research/Scholarship


Scientific peer reviewers play an integral role in the grant selection process, yet very little has been reported on the levels of participation or the motivations of scientists to take part in peer review. The American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS) developed a comprehensive peer review survey that examined the motivations and levels of participation of grant reviewers. The survey was disseminated to 13,091 scientists in AIBS’s proprietary database. Of the 874 respondents, 76% indicated they had reviewed grant applications in the last 3 years; however, the number of reviews was unevenly distributed across this sample. Higher review loads were associated with respondents who had submitted more grant proposals over this time period, some of whom were likely to be study section members for large funding agencies. The most prevalent reason to participate in a review was to give back to the scientific community (especially among frequent grant submitters) and the most common reason to decline an invitation to review was lack of time. Interestingly, few suggested that expectation from the funding agency was a motivation to review. Most felt that review participation positively influenced their careers through improving grantsmanship and exposure to new scientific ideas. Of those who reviewed, respondents reported dedicating 2–5% of their total annual work time to grant review and, based on their self-reported maximum review loads, it is estimated they are participating at 56–87% of their capacity, which may have important implications regarding the sustainability of the system. Overall, it is clear that participation in peer review is uneven and in some cases near capacity, and more needs to be done to create new motivations and incentives to increase the future pool of reviewers.


Peer review Participation Sustainability Research funding Grant applications Motivation Survey 


Supplementary material

11948_2019_123_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (129 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 128 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Scientific Peer Advisory and Review ServicesAmerican Institute of Biological SciencesHerndonUSA
  2. 2.Washington State UniversityVancouverUSA

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