Monday, April 30, 2007

Peer Review: Its Present and Future States

A report, “Peer Review: Its Present and Future States” published by the European Science Foundation (ESF) considers various shortcomings of the peer review system while outlining some possible measures to cope with them. The report, which draws on ideas from an international conference in Prague in October 2006, also details a number of options that could lead to a greater openness to innovative research. From the Press Release:
A central theme of the report is that the current peer review system might not adequately assess the most pioneering research proposals, as they may be viewed as too risky. John O’Reilly, former Chief Executive of the U.K.’s engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), now Vice Chancellor of Cranfield University, said traditional peer review might be too risk averse. He suggested the need to encourage pioneering research that is high risk in the proposal, but high impact if successful.

The conference called for new approaches, enabling the assessment of innovative research, to be embedded in the peer review system. An example of a new approach to overcome the perceived risk-averse funding culture was given by Dr. He Minghong from the National Natural Science Foundation China. His Foundation encourages reviewers and programme managers to spot risky project proposals which are then funded under stricter conditions. Their duration is shorter, their budget smaller and they are more closely monitored.

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