Reviewing Research Grant Applications - Case C1
Don Fletcher is a full professor at a renowned university and has a
reputation as an outstanding scientist. His work has had a number of
potentially profitable practical applications, which led him to join
with some venture capital partners in forming a company to
commercialize his inventions. Now several years old, the company is a
Dr. Fletcher is also a member of a National Institutes of Health
(NIH) study section -- one of the many peer review groups at the NIH
that evaluate the scientific merit of grant applications. Despite the
long hours, he is pleased to serve since he recognizes the importance
of his contributions to the peer review system. In addition, he
believes it is an excellent way of keeping absolutely current with
the work done in his and related fields. He is very aware of the
importance of confidentiality as reiterated in the statement read
before each study section meeting.
Dr. Fletcher just returned from reviewing a fascinating grant
application from a scientist working in a closely related area of
research. After evaluating the application's preliminary work report,
Dr. Fletcher came to realize that much of his own current NIH-funded
and corporate research was proceeding down a blind alley. A meeting
to review his research team's progress is fast approaching, and he is
due at corporate headquarters tomorrow to discuss his company's
research and development projects.
- What could Dr. Fletcher report to his research team? To his
- Should Dr. Fletcher have proceeded differently in the case of
this grant review?
- Some people may have difficulty in segregating ideas that they
gain in the course of reviewing grant applications from ideas they
develop on their own or glean from non-confidential sources. If you
were in Dr. Fletcher's situation, how would you ensure that you did
not benefit inappropriately from information or ideas acquired
during the course of your duties as a study section member?
- Policies for peer review involve both the need for expert
assessment and the avoidance of breaches of confidentiality.
Develop a set of rules that you believe should guide the peer