New but not ignored

August 9, 2002

Your article about the report from the House of Commons science and technology committee on the government funding of learned societies contained an inaccuracy about the Royal Society ("MPs put science bodies in dock", THES , August 2).

You claimed that the society told the committee it "had difficulty dealing with fellowship candidates from new disciplines as assessment panels often lacked the expertise to evaluate them". This is untrue. Once candidates are nominated, the ten sectional committees are capable of doing their job because they draw on reports from external referees who are well acquainted with the achievements of the candidates.

However, we recognise difficulties can arise in identifying individuals whose achievements are in emerging disciplines or who are located at institutions where there are few fellows. In recent years we have introduced safeguards such as inviting vice-chancellors and others within the scientific and engineering community to put forward candidates who otherwise might be overlooked.

Lord May of Oxford
President, The Royal Society

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