Research funding. Big names or big ideas: do peer-review panels select the best science proposals?

Science. 2015 Apr 24;348(6233):434-8. doi: 10.1126/science.aaa0185. Epub 2015 Apr 23.


This paper examines the success of peer-review panels in predicting the future quality of proposed research. We construct new data to track publication, citation, and patenting outcomes associated with more than 130,000 research project (R01) grants funded by the U.S. National Institutes of Health from 1980 to 2008. We find that better peer-review scores are consistently associated with better research outcomes and that this relationship persists even when we include detailed controls for an investigator's publication history, grant history, institutional affiliations, career stage, and degree types. A one-standard deviation worse peer-review score among awarded grants is associated with 15% fewer citations, 7% fewer publications, 19% fewer high-impact publications, and 14% fewer follow-on patents.

MeSH terms

  • Biomedical Research / economics*
  • Biomedical Research / statistics & numerical data
  • Biomedical Research / trends*
  • Financing, Organized
  • Journal Impact Factor*
  • National Institutes of Health (U.S.)*
  • Peer Review, Research / trends*
  • United States