The Future of Peer Review

Added by Michael Jubb on 08 May 2007 12:22

A report ? Peer Review: its Present and Future States - has recently been published of the proceedings of a conference organised by the European Science Foundation, the European Heads of Research Councils, and the Czech Science Foundation, and held in October last year in Prague. The conference brought together some 150 delegates from across Europe, the US and Asia, including publishers as well as funding bodies and research institutions.

A major theme of the conference appears to have been a concern, expressed by Sir John O?Reilly, the former Chief Executive of the EPSRC in the UK, that peer review systems tend to be conservative in assessing the quality of innovative research proposals; and there was much discussion about how to ensure that pioneering research is not jeopardised by such conservatism. There was also some interesting discussion about the need to adopt innovative approaches in the peer review process itself, including video-enhanced discussions and online discussions; but also about the need to minimise the burdens that the peer review system places on reviewers.

The conclusion seems to have been that there is a need for ?a strategic evaluation at a more conceptual level, not of a specific mechanism, but of the underlying principles and ideas???..Continuously monitoring the peer review system on which the quality of science so heavily depends will contribute to its improvement.? Who will take on the job of providing such an evaluation, and such a monitoring role, is an interesting question.

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