Peer-review under review – A statistical study on proposal ranking at ESO. Part I: the pre-meeting phase

« Peer review is the most common mechanism in place for assessing requests for resources in a large variety of scientific disciplines. One of the strongest criticisms to this paradigm is the limited reproducibility of the process, especially at largely oversubscribed facilities. In this and in a subsequent paper we address this specific aspect in a quantitative way, through a statistical study on proposal ranking at the European Southern Observatory. For this purpose we analysed a sample of about 15000 proposals, submitted by more than 3000 Principal Investigators over 8 years. The proposals were reviewed by more than 500 referees, who assigned over 140000 grades in about 200 panel sessions. (…) »