Peer review found lacking

October 27, 1994

A Dutch study to be unveiled next week in London will propose a radical approach to defining and assessing research to address the changing relationship between science, technology and society.

The report says that a host of studies into peer review, the normal means of deciding on the value of research proposals, show that it cannot provide a general view of the merits of research proposals.

Jack Spaapen, a researcher at Amsterdam University, says that traditional models imply an artificial distinction between science and society that has been "proven time and time again to be inadequate in assessing the societal value of research".

At a Science Policy Support Group meeting next Monday, he will urge a rethink of the characteristics of research to allow its value to be fully considered.

The approach developed by the Dutch team strives to produce "a clear connection between science, society and methods of assessing research".

But the report warns that in an era in which public accountability and tightening budgets are being constantly debated by policy makers, a concept such as societal quality of research can be understood in many different ways.

The United States Congress, for example, wants more funding to be directed at applied research and is pushing for evidence that proposed research will be of benefit to society before funding it.

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