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Ethics in Science and Environmental Politics

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ESEP 8:109-119 (2008)  -  DOI:

Crises on coral reefs and in coral reef science in the 21st century: the need for a new peer-review system

Paul W. Sammarco

Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium (LUMCON), 8124 Hwy. 56, Chauvin, Louisiana 70344, USA

ABSTRACT: Coral reef biota have suffered mass mortality globally in the last 30 yr. Causes include: (1) coral disease, (2) coral bleaching, (3) coastal nutrient enrichment, (4) over-fishing, and (5) mass mortality of grazing echinoids. In this paper, I examine data from a US funding agency, a global funding agency, and abstracting indices, and demonstrate why the peer review system has become dysfunctional under these circumstances. Research funding and the number of funded projects have not kept pace with increases in environmental problems, the increased researcher population and researcher demand, resulting in a chronic support gap. This has undermined trust, mutual support, and free-flow of information, and resulted in a poorly functioning review system. I examine the advantages and disadvantages of masking and the double-blinded review system, and recommend a more transparent review system—the reverse-blind review system (RBRS), utilizing (1) Lack of identity of authors/proponents to reviewers, to promote objectivity, (2) identification of reviewers to the authors/proponents, to promote accountability, (3) utilization of expert ‘panel’ members in grant proposal review, similar to the editorial system of scientific journals, each making direct recommendations to funding agencies, (4) elimination of grant panel meetings to help eliminate input by non-experts and confounding group interactions and assign greater responsibility to funding bodies, and (5) allowing researchers to appeal decisions based on inaccurate or misleading information. Such a system would be fairer to the researchers, enhance research, and increase information exchange.

KEY WORDS: Coral · Peer review · Proposals · Manuscripts · Publishing · Funding · Panel · Appeal

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Cite this article as: Sammarco PW (2008) Crises on coral reefs and in coral reef science in the 21st century: the need for a new peer-review system. Ethics Sci Environ Polit 8:109-119.

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