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Teleconference versus Face-to-Face Scientific Peer Review of Grant Application: Effects on Review Outcomes
Published: Wednesday, August 07, 2013
Author: Stephen A. Gallo et al.

by Stephen A. Gallo, Afton S. Carpenter, Scott R. Glisson

Teleconferencing as a setting for scientific peer review is an attractive option for funding agencies, given the substantial environmental and cost savings. Despite this, there is a paucity of published data validating teleconference-based peer review compared to the face-to-face process. Our aim was to conduct a retrospective analysis of scientific peer review data to investigate whether review setting has an effect on review process and outcome measures. We analyzed reviewer scoring data from a research program that had recently modified the review setting from face-to-face to a teleconference format with minimal changes to the overall review procedures. This analysis included approximately 1600 applications over a 4-year period: two years of face-to-face panel meetings compared to two years of teleconference meetings. The average overall scientific merit scores, score distribution, standard deviations and reviewer inter-rater reliability statistics were measured, as well as reviewer demographics and length of time discussing applications. The data indicate that few differences are evident between face-to-face and teleconference settings with regard to average overall scientific merit score, scoring distribution, standard deviation, reviewer demographics or inter-rater reliability. However, some difference was found in the discussion time. These findings suggest that most review outcome measures are unaffected by review setting, which would support the trend of using teleconference reviews rather than face-to-face meetings. However, further studies are needed to assess any correlations among discussion time, application funding and the productivity of funded research projects.