Posts Tagged ‘Review’

Research Ethics and Project Proposal Reviews

September 24, 2008

Dr. Free-Ride at Adventures in Ethics and Science has a must-read essay (which, I understand is the first in a series of two posts) on research ethics:

In the U.S., the federal agencies that fund scientific research usually discuss scientific misconduct in terms of the big three of fabrication, falsification, and plagiarism (FFP). These three are the “high crimes” against science, so far over the line as to be shocking to one’s scientific sensibilities.

But there are lots of less extreme ways to cross the line that are still — by scientists’ own lights — harmful to science. Those “normal misbehaviors” emerge in a 2006 study by Raymond De Vries, Melissa S. Anderson, and Brian C. Martinson [1]:

We found that while researchers were aware of the problems of FFP, in their eyes misconduct is generally associated with more mundane, everyday problems in the work environment. These more common problems fall into four categories: the meaning of data, the rules of science, life with colleagues, and the pressures of production in science. (43)

This rather lengthy post discusses the first two aspects of misbehaviour stated above, namely, meaning of data and rules of science, and as I said, is a must-read. I look forward to the next piece in the series.

Drug Monkey tackles the question, namely, whether junior reviewers are too focussed on details while reviewing project proposals, and whether such obsession with details, if any, affects the reviewing process and quality (well, the short answers are may be and no):

The argument against the more-junior reviewers on NIH study section review that is the most amenable to discussion is that the younger people are unable to see the forest for the trees. Unable to take the broad view. Have a tendency to focus on details and grantsmanship issues in preference to the quality of the science (wot, wot?). I will note the evidence for this is quite lame, as there are never any studies or CSR datasets being referenced. What I do hear generally follows the following trends.

  1. The comically flawed assumption that the PI in question knows which of the critiques of their grants were written by less-tried investigators.
  2. The perspective of the PI’s experience with the (1?, 3?) Assistant Professors in their Department who give them informal comments on their own grant.
  3. Occasionally some direct study section experiences in which it is claimed that the Assistant Professors focus on detail too narrowly.

For argument’s sake, let us credit these observations and ask why this might be the case.

Take a look!

Update: The second part of Dr. Free-Ride’s post is also up. Needless to say, a must-read too.


A patient reader’s private conversations with books!

November 16, 2007

To peruse copies of books that Updike read with the intention of reviewing—including Michael Ondaatje’s Anil’s Ghost; Alice Munro’s Selected Stories; Margaret Atwood’s The Blind Assassin; Barry Hannah’s Geronimo Rex; and many others—is to meet a reader who, in a most inarguable way, is a picture of thoroughness. The margins run with comments, even in appendices, even by footnotes. “I read slower than I write,” Updike wrote, rather amazingly, in 1975, suggesting that these annotative efforts represent a substantial investment of time. If criticism is, as Terry Eagleton has said, a way of “looking at meaning not as an object but as a practice,” then one can see in Updike’s review copies the humble, rudimentary motions of that practice. As often as not, his marginalia may be seen doing one of the most immediate jobs of criticism, which is to distinguish, however arbitrarily, good things from bad. And yet, in the main, Updike may be spied undertaking a more considered task: that of interrogation. The form of punctuation that predominates in his margins is the question mark. What one is witness to is a patient reader’s private conversation with a book.

That is Wyatt Mason in Harpers; link via Dwight Garner at Paper Cuts.

There is more in Mason’s piece like this rules for reviewers for example:

In Picked-up Pieces (1975), Updike’s second collection of essays, he lists his rules for reviewing:

  1. Try to understand what the author wishes to do, and do not blame him for not achieving what he did not attempt.
  2. Give enough direct quotation—at least one extended passage—of the book’s prose so the review’s reader can form his own impression, can get his own taste.
  3. Confirm your description of the book with quotation from the book, if only phrase-long, rather than proceeding by fuzzy précis.
  4. Go easy on plot summary, and do not give away the ending….
  5. If the book is judged deficient, cite a successful example along the same lines, from the author’s oeuvre or elsewhere. Try to understand the failure. Sure it’s his and not yours?

All better literary criticism tends to abide by these rules as a matter of course. Dale Peck was ultimately easy to discredit as a voice of critical discernment not because of the severity of his pronouncements (his dismissals of Nabokov, Joyce, Faulkner, et al.) or even his showboating rudeness; rather, he courted his own dismissal through his increasing disinterest in crafting arguments that would plausibly substantiate, through textual evidence, his condemnations. Critical authority can only be earned, and Updike’s rules represent the very minimum, practical, practicable means by which one can go about building authority: with direct and responsible recourse to the books themselves.

It is a lengthy piece, but worth your time nonetheless. Take a look!