The focus of this Theme Section is peer review of journal manuscripts versus that of research proposals, both of which can be intellectually rewarding. A number of well-established scientists who were invited for comments underlined that whereas a manuscript submitted to a journal is a completed piece of work, suitable to be peer reviewed using well-defined criteria, a research proposal is a plan of action and not an end product in itself, and so requires different assessment criteria. Although it is often transparent how reviewers' comments on a manuscript are translated into editorial decisions, this may not always be the case with the verdicts of funding agencies on research proposals. Financial compensation may play a role in the willingness of reviewers to undertake the task, and most (but not all) of the scientists thought that such remuneration would be a fair reward. Compensation may be a practical incentive for reviewers who are not citizens of the country served by a particular funding agency, and who are excluded from applying for related funds. Grant awarding agencies in different countries should compare their procedures to assess the merits of different approaches to assessing research proposals.
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