THE USE OF SOCIETAL IMPACTS CONSIDERATIONS IN GRANT PROPOSAL PEER REVIEW: A COMPARISON OF FIVE MODELS
Increasing demands on the part of the public for a demonstrable return on their investment in scientific and technical research have led to the widespread introduction of considerations of societal impacts into the peer review processes at public science and technology funding agencies. This answer to the accountability challenge also introduces a peculiar strain on peer review: expertise in particular areas of scientific and technical research is no guarantee of expertise in addressing the societal impacts of proposed research. Presenting preliminary results of a larger study, this article describes five current models of the peer review of grant proposals and shows that different agencies have very different ways of incorporating societal impacts considerations. The article also elucidates a notion of theoretical adequacy, which will be used to determine whether and how some peer review processes are better than others. The objectives of this article are to lay out the description of the agencies and to offer a preliminary assessment of each model's theoretical adequacy. The objective of our larger study is to determine the best ways to incorporate societal impacts considerations into the peer review of grant proposals, thus helping funding agencies respond to the demand for demonstrable results.