What If We Knew What Reviewers Said About Other Grants?

This post is inspired by episode 695 of This American Life (everyone’s a critic).

On Amazon you can see what accounts say about stuff they’ve purchased.

And you can also see what they’ve said about other stuff.

Thus, you can triangulate what their overall views are about life or their approach to certain fields or topics.

It is also possible to get a stronger understanding of the way the account reviews content. And I say account, because I am not interested in identifying the person or people behind the account, just their approach to life and reviewing content.

In the podcast, a book author notes that professional book critics usually write detailed reviews. Reviews that tend to unpack the positives, and negatives. Or if they are only negatives, do so in a way that is somewhat useful to him (as an author) as well as future readers.

Whereas the average punter tended to write entirely unhelpful reviews. Such as “boring, boring, boring”. “No”. Or “yes”. Or “loved it”.

In the episode, the author notes the hurt they felt reading the negative reviews of the average punter.

So, how to deal with the hurt? How to respond to the negative reviews?


In this case, the author looked at the account and studied their purchases and other reviews. Like I said, you can see all of that within Amazon (and many other purchase platforms like eBay, and Gumtree).

He got comfort in seeing other purchases and reviews. Knowing a bit about the reviewers purchasing and reviewing habits made it easier to dismiss their negative review. On an entirely superficial basis too. An example – one account poorly reviewed his book, and highly rated an Amazon gift card. The fact the account felt a gift card warranted a review allowed the author to dismiss the negative review. “The book is not for this type of person”. It did not change anything other than the author’s perception of the reviewer.

So, to my question and the title of this blog.

What if you could see that kind of information about grant or paper reviewers?

What if you could see (without identification) the reviews they gave other grants and papers? Or books on Amazon? Or their purchase history?

What if you could see their publications? What if you could see their grants? Again, without identification.

Would it help you deal with the negative review? Would knowing they are generally harsh help you deal with the review? Would knowing they write reviews about gift cards or cake stands or balls of wool help?

Remember, we’re not using the review history or track record to stop the person reviewing future grants or papers. We’re just using it as a tool to help us – the writer – better deal with negative reviews.


Dr Richard Huysmans is the author of Connect the Docs: A Guide to getting industry partners for academics. He is a #pracademic and specialises in identifying and attracting industry partners for researchers. Richard is driven by the challenge of helping academics be commercially smart. His strategic approach to collaboration and research translation has been making the impossible possible for more than seven years.

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