Laughter and the Chair: Social Pressures Influencing Scoring During Grant Peer Review Meetings
During NIH peer review meetings (“study sections”), scientists discuss and assign “priority scores” to grant applications that largely determine funding outcomes. Although the final priority score is an average of each panelist’s score, their individual score is anchored to the scores declared publicly by those scientists (usually three) assigned to review and report on the grant application in detail. We have identified “score calibration talk” (SCT), a discourse practice where a study section member discusses and interprets the scoring rather than the content of a grant application. We found two forms: self-initiated SCT, when a panelist provides commentary about their own scoring (e.g., “So I gave it a four, which was probably generous”); and other-initiated SCT,when a panelist challenges the scoring of an assigned reviewer (e.g., “Yeah, that was generous.”). Only other-initiated SCT correlated with changes from the initial to the final score among the assigned...
During the time this research was conducted, Elizabeth Pier was a postdoctoral fellow and Anna Kaatz was an Associate Scientist at the Center for Women’s Health Research at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
The research reported in this paper was supported by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences of the National Institutes of Health under Award Numbers R01GM111002 and R35GM122557.
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Conflict of Interest
The authors declare that they do not have a conflict of interest.
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