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Peer Review System

Volume 165: debated on Friday 19 January 1990

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To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Science (1) if he will list the membership of the ABRC working group investigating reforms of the peer review system under the chairmanship of Margaret Boden; and if he will make a statement;(2) if he will outline the scope and remit of the ABRC working group investigating reforms of the peer review system; and if he will make a statement.

I understand that the membership and terms of reference of the ABRC's working group on peer review are as follows:


Professor Margaret Boden, FBA (Chairman)—Professor of Philosophy and Psychology at the University of Sussex; and ABRC Member.
Professor Sir Eric Ash, FRS FEng.—Rector, Imperial College of Science and Technology, and ABRC Member.
Sir Charles Reece—former Research and Technology Director, ICI; and ABRC Member.
Dr. David Edge—Science Studies Unit, Edinburgh University.
Dr. John Skehel, FRS—Director, National Institute for Medical Research.
Dr. Peter Williams—Chief Executive, Oxford Instruments plc.

Terms of Reference

  • 1. To describe the present practices of the Research Councils in using peer review for the appraisal of proposals for research projects, programmes, centres and facilities; and for the monitoring and evaluation of output and performance.
  • 2. To estimate the costs of peer review in terms of the resources and time committed by the Councils, their staff and committee members, and by applicants and referees.
  • 3. To evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the peer review systems operated by Councils; and to assess their efficiency and effectiveness for the appraisal of different types of research support, including for expenditure on and access to large facilities.
  • 4. To review studies of peer review undertaken in the United States and elsewhere, and to draw appropriate lessons for the United Kingdom.
  • 5. To make recommendations concerning:
    • the economy, efficiency and effectiveness of the Council's arrangements for peer review;
    • peer review mechanisms as regards support for young researchers and new research fields;
    • the use of peer review, and any alternatives, in relation to investment and time allocation decisions for large experimental facilities.
  • 6. Throughout, to construe "peer review" broadly—encompassing also, for instance, "merit review".
  • My right hon. Friend and I will be interested to hear in due course of the ABRC's conclusions arising from this work.