Faithful readership, all four of you (it would be five, but mom's "google machine" has crashed) I wanted to survey your opinions on an interesting topic. I read in the a recent issue of Science, that NSF is looking at virtual peer review of grant proposals through use of Second Life. Seems like an interesting way to "get everyone in the same room" but not be in the same room to hash out these proposals in a virtual panel. So I'm hoping PLS can chime in since he has been in on NSF grant evaluation panels.
The NIH is starting to take some interest in this since they are becoming more reliant on videoconferencing. I can see that the infrastructure for videoconferencing could be somewhat expensive but this Second Life-based review system would be less expensive. However I don't like this because the NSF is using someone else's infrastructure and you have to wonder about access issues, accounts getting hacked, DDoS attacks, etc. Also, I think part of the review panel is getting folks out of the office, shoving them in a room together and plowing through these proposals. Will reviewers be stay focused in this virtual review environment when their office phone is ringing, the damn trainees are beating on the door to get some form signed, and chair really wants you to show up at the faculty meeting this afternoon because after all, you are here are you not?
Those are some of the downsides, lets check out the positives. You don't have to travel, which may be important to those with families or who hate sitting in airport lounges waiting for their delayed flights. It would be a huge cost savings, NSF isn't having to lodge and feed all these folks. This might increase the number of folks who would participate in an evaluation panel that would not normally?
If this ever makes its way to the NIH, I could see:
-CPP's avatar stumbling around drunk with a bottle of Jameson that he might chuck at a reviewer who gets off topic.
-Dr. Isis, changing her virtual footwear throughout the study section.
-Pascal avatar blogging on her iPad because she bored of some old graybeard rambling on about something off topic.
-Some torrid affair of tenure-tracked professors potentially involving cybersex on top of the conference table while a mortified Drugmonkey looks on. Pascal would be capturing video but her Flip Mino is still busted.