For those of you who would love to see the peer review system updated, please realize that any substantive changes would require an act of Congress. Literally.
CSR offers a retro look at the history of peer review, which was launched by one Cassius J. Van Slyke when Recodification of Public Health Service laws in 1944 into Public Law 410, which, through Section 301, authorized PHS to award research grants (had been restricted to the National Cancer Institute since 1938). NIH Reauthorization bills over the years have shaped policy and priorities but have not toyed with the peer review system itself.
In 1952, for example, they recognized the importance of the care & feeding new investigators, as evidenced by a report recommending “that supplemental fluid funds be provided to the grantee institutions to support pilot studies of promising youngsters … [with] a second recommendation for long-term stipends for non-tenure scientists following their training, stipends to be commensurate with ability, stature, and age of the recipient researchers. This recommendation led to the establishment of the Research Career Development and Research Career Awards.”
In 1993 (Section 492B of Public Law 103-43 to be exact), clinical trials were prodded into recruiting enough women and children, previously avoided due to all those damn confounding hormones (& the belief that children were just little adults and women were the same as men aside from those minor anatomic differences).
The NIH was reauthorized by an omnibus bill just this year. P.L. 109-482 caps the number of ICs at 27, provides the Director of NIH with expanded authority to manage the agency, encourages ICs to collaborate on trans-NIH research, and reforms the agency’s reporting system so that Congress can evaluate the NIH research portfolio.