Issue Date: May 21, 2012
Maintaining Merit Review
In a groundbreaking meeting last week, science policy leaders from 44 countries gathered outside Washington, D.C., to endorse a set of fundamental principles underlying merit review.
The two-day Global Summit on Merit Review, hosted by the National Science Foundation, affirmed the importance of merit review to science worldwide. Merit review—supporting research strictly based on its scientific merit—is a fundamental tenet of science funding in the U.S. and Europe but a work in progress in many developing countries.
“This global summit is the first step toward a more unified approach to the scientific process,” NSF Director Subra Suresh said at a May 15 press conference announcing the principles. “Good science anywhere is good for science everywhere.”
The summit endorsed six principles: expert assessment, transparency, impartiality, appropriateness, confidentiality, and integrity and ethics. The statement of principles is the culmination of a year of work, including five regional meetings of global science policymakers.
Many developing countries need guidelines like these as they create their own science-funding policies, Glaucius Oliva, president of Brazil’s National Council for Scientific & Technological Development, explained at the press conference.
For example, Brazil’s government is enacting new openness measures that Oliva fears might lead to court battles to reveal merit review deliberations. “An international statement that [confidentiality] is a fundamental principle of science is an important one,” he said.
The summit was the founding meeting of the Global Research Council, which will gather annually to discuss important challenges facing science worldwide and develop guiding principles for science policymakers. The next meeting, hosted by Brazil and Germany, will tackle research integrity and open access to research.
Matthias Kleiner, president of the German Research Foundation, said creating a council makes sense because science is international by nature. “But it is not easy because science is a question of cooperation and it is also a question of competition,” he said. To balance that, “I think we need many more standards and principles on which we agree.”
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