Saturday, July 20, 2013

It should be "illegal" to write this proposal review

Like everywhere the success rate for research proposals in Denmark is around 10%.  This leaves review panels with the unenviable task of rejecting some proposals simply because there is not enough money, and not because the proposal is deficient in any meaningful way.  This happened to me a lot last year.  One of the proposals I re-submitted got the following review last year:
Your application was found very worthy of support.  This means that your professional qualifications, your CV, and your project was of such quality and character that it would have been funded had there been sufficient funds.
This year, the very same proposal was rejected with the following justification (emphasis, mine original at the end of the post.)
Reasons for denial:
Independent Research Council | Natural Sciences in its treatment of your application emphasized the importance of the evaluation criteria defined in the notice you were looking for in relation to, and weighted your application against the other applications that your application was in competition with. In comparison with the applications receiving funding, found strands that your application does not have quite the same degree: 
• demonstrate that your scientific production within the project area is on the same very high level. It appears from your CV that your publications within the project's subject area are not, to the same extent, published in the most respected journals.
The difference in CVs was four new publications, all in PLoS ONE. Did I not get funded because I published in PLoS ONE?  Well, probably not, since I didn't get funded the first time either.  I think they merely grasping at any old straw when de-selecting the last 20-30% of proposals. Never-the-less it is a completely non-sensical justification unworthy of anyone who call themselves scientists, and should be "against the law", i.e. against council policy, much like it now is in the UK:
When assessing proposals for research funding RCUK considers that it is the quality of the research proposed, and not where an author has or is intending to publish, that is of paramount importance.
Anyway, glad I got that off my chest.  Now on to bigger and better things.
Original Danish text
Begrundelse for afslaget:
Det Frie Forskningsråd | Natur og Univers har i sin behandling af din ansøgning lagt vægt på de vurderingskriterier, der fremgik af det opslag, du søgte i forhold til, og vægtet din ansøgning mod de øvrige ansøgninger, som din ansøgning var i konkurrence med. I sammenligning med de ansøgninger, der fik bevilling, fandt rådet, at din ansøgning ikke i helt samme grad: 
• dokumenterer, at din videnskabelige produktion inden for projektets område er på samme meget høje niveau. Det fremgår af dit CV, at dine publikationer inden for projektets fagområde ikke i helt samme omfang er publiceret i de allermest anerkendte tidsskrifter.

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