Reinhard Schneider and colleagues have proposed the following approach to protecting grant reviewers' anonymity. Comments from the ISCB community would be welcome; please post your comments by Friday, May 12, 2006!
Draft proposal: 0.1 (RS, April 10th, 2006)
How ISCB can help to allow the use of URL’s related to bioinformatics grant proposals
Background: See the proposed ISCB policy statement on URLs in grant proposals.
Solution: ISCB could function as the “anonymizer” for the reviewers.
Possible Technical implementation:
- Use of an “anonymizer” service on the web
- Implementation of a proxy server under the supervision of ISCB
- Implementation of a terminal server under the supervision of the ISCB
1) Using “anonymizer” services
The use of an anonymizer service is quite simple and can be done without much user intervention. The basic principle of these services is the use of one single static address (proxy or a net of proxies), which is shared by many users. Examples for these services are:
2) Proxy-server setup by the ISCB
As an alternative to the above mentioned anonymizer services, one can use a proxy server that would be owned by the ISCB. Proxy servers are similar to the anonymizer, i.e. web pages are retrieved by the proxy server rather than by the person actually browsing the Web. By running such a proxy-server the ISCB could guarantee that no information is collected or otherwise abused. But there are important differences: proxy servers don't help with cookies, hostile applets or code (see below: possible problems).
3) Setup of a terminal server on an ISCB server
This solution would require the setup of a server running Microsoft “Windows Server 2003 Terminal Services”. The reviewer would login into this terminal server and would start a web-browser from this machine. By doing this all the traffic to the destination web-server will originate from the ISCB terminal server and as such protect the anonymity of the reviewer 100%.
Client software is freely available for Windows systems, Apple computer and Linux systems.
The funding for such a solution would need to cover the basic hardware for the server, the license for the operating system and the terminal server licenses (per user) as well as the maintenance costs for running this service.
Additional advantage: The URL’s can be password protected and can contain even unpublished data. The user would then provide the site login information in the grant proposal. By using the terminal server solution the reviewers could login anonymously and the proposal submitter would only know that her/his site is being reviewed.
Possible problems with solution 1 and 2:
Due to these restrictions, option number three (terminal server) seems to be the most appropriate solution to secure the anonymity of reviewers and simplicity of use. The costs should be in a reasonable range and could possibly be covered by a small grant for running this service.
Possible workflow of the implementation
- User registers at the ISCB web-site (Name, e-mail, title of proposal)
- Confirmation mail is sent to the user with a link for activating the account (with or without administrator intervention?)
- ISCB server sends username and password for the terminal server to the user
- User puts username and password into her/his grant application
- Reviewer logs into ISCB terminal server
Validity of account: 6 months (maximum?; automatic deletion after max days?)