Brussels, 3 November 2006
The future of European peer review lies in the creation of a common platform through which countries can share scientific expertise, according to Ian Halliday, President of the European Science Foundation (ESF).
Speaking at the 'Prague Peer Review 2006' conference, Mr Halliday said that many research areas could benefit from a common pool of international referees. 'If you look at the US National Science Foundation [NSF] and take the example of laser physics, the experts within the field from across the whole continent are divided into several specialised expert panels. If we could do this in Europe, it would add value to the division of scientific expertise,' he said.
Peer review starts when a publisher sends advance copies of an author's work or ideas to others who are experts in the field and who serve as the referees. Usually, there are two or three referees. These referees each return an evaluation of the work, including suggestions for improvement. Scientific journals observe this convention universally.
While peer review is still considered as the best method of judging scientific quality, some argue that its inherent subjectivity and variability leads to disparate review practices. The answer, they say, is the creation of guidelines and methods of best practice to be shared throughout the research community.
According to Mr Halliday, this harmonisation process could be helped along in Europe by the creation of a platform through which European countries could share scientific expertise.
'I can see a case now for all of the bids within one scientific field from across the whole of Europe being dealt with in one place at one time,' he said. 'This way we could share European expertise but the money would remain national. I think that this would be a suitable alternative to current European schemes which try to share common European funding.'
Mr Halliday went onto suggest that the ESF could play a role in coordinating the new European panels. 'This is the kind of deal that we are in the position to set up to run,' he said
Also speaking at the Prague conference, Mark Suskin from NSF said that such a platform could help create closer ties between the US and European scientific communities. The US scientific community wants to work with the whole of Europe, he said, but fragmentation often makes that difficult. 'At the moment, I don't think that Europe is drawing on the full spectrum of resources that it has all at once. Sometimes, working on a European level would be useful,' he said.
For more information, please visit: http://www.esf.org