Maintaining Merit Review | May 21, 2012 Issue - Vol. 90 Issue 21 | Chemical & Engineering News
Volume 90 Issue 21 | p. 6 | News of The Week
Issue Date: May 21, 2012

Maintaining Merit Review

Policy: International science summit highlights importance of merit review
Department: Government & Policy
Keywords: merit review, peer review, international policy, global research council, NSF
Oliva (from left), Suresh, and Kleiner discuss merit review with the press on May 15.
Credit: Sandy Schaeffer
NSF Director Subra Suresh (center) talks about new guiding principles of merit review at a press conference with colleagues Glaucius Oliva (left) of Brazil and Matthias Kleiner (right) of Germany. NSF hosted members from 44 countries for the first meeting of the Global Research Council.
Oliva (from left), Suresh, and Kleiner discuss merit review with the press on May 15.
Credit: Sandy Schaeffer

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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