Peer review: where to now?

January 16, 1998

Richard Brook's discussion of the peer-review system (THES, Opinion, January 9) leaves out one essential element: the altruistic attitude required to fund something really new and outside the experience of current experts. History is full of such examples, for example computers in the 1940s. Interdisciplinary work also is hard for focused experts to appreciate. At a recent meeting on brain research at Oxford, it was noticed that most multidisciplinary work had failed to obtain research council support and was funded privately.

It is not beyond imagination to have special groups of "wise persons" in councils charged with taking innovational risks. This could work alongside peer groups. I suspect the fashion for "foresight" focus is responsible for such schemes not being in place.

Igor Aleksander, Professor of neural systems engineering, Imperial College, London

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