A new group of government research funders from around the world announced today that it will try to find common ground on two big issues in its inaugural year: defining research integrity and promoting open access to scientific information. The Global Research Council (GRC), comprised of the leaders of publicly funded science agencies from about 50 nations, also released its first work product, a common set of principles that frame how funders should review and choose the most worthy research projects.
The release of the new Statement of Principles for Scientific Merit Review followed a meeting of 47 research leaders hosted by the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) at its headquarters in Arlington, Virginia. "I am very pleased that pretty much everyone we invited came," said NSF Director Subra Suresh, who has been looking for ways to foster international research cooperation. The 2-day Global Summit on Merit Review capped a year-long effort to develop the new statement, which highlights six "key elements necessary for a rigorous and transparent review system." They include the use of expert assessment of proposals and a transparent, impartial, and confidential review process.
"These are not necessarily all-inclusive principles," Suresh said at a press conference today, "but they are basic principles we all agreed on." Such agreement could help smooth the way for multinational research projects, he noted.
Suresh also formally announced the creation of GRC, which he said will be a "voluntary, … virtual organization" designed to foster discussion of "shared goals, aspirations, and principles, and provide a vehicle to unify science across the globe." It is not intended to be "a new bureaucracy," he emphasized, and each member agency will cover its costs for participating. GRC also will not, at least for the time being, get involved in funding international research projects, Suresh said. Instead, the goal is to create forum for "high-level discussions" of more general policy issues.
Now that it has hashed out the merit review principles, GRC will focus on developing common views on safeguarding research integrity and expanding open access, said science chiefs from Brazil and Germany, which will lead the effort. Both are "important" topics "in every laboratory in the world," said physicist Glaucius Oliva, president of Brazil's National Council for Scientific and Technological Development, the nation's lead research funding agency.