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Republicans Take on Peer Review

Senate Republicans are proposing changes to how the government funds basic research, and the changes look like an attack on how peer review is conducted, ScienceInsider reports.

Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) has proposed new legislation that would "fundamentally alter how grant proposals are reviewed at every federal agency," the article notes. The bill would add members of the public with no expertise in the research being vetted to peer review panels, and would eliminate the current in-house watchdog office within the National Science Foundation and replace it with a body that would randomly examine grant proposals to make sure the research will "deliver value to the taxpayer," ScienceInsider reports. 

Paul says his bill takes a stab at eliminating waste, what he called "silly research" at a Senate panel discussing the bill. 

The top Democrat on the panel, Senator Gary Peters (D–MI), defended the value of research and the way the government currently funds it, ScienceInsider says. He chided Republicans for not seeing past the sometimes silly-sounding names of research studies to see the actual scientific merit beneath them, and for trying to inject politics into the science funding process.

Before the panel was called away for other votes, Paul warned that the research community should shape up, ScienceInsider reports, but whether his legislation will actually go anywhere is unclear given that he is often at odds with his own party and his bill has no co-sponsors.