CHALLENGES FOR INTERNATIONAL PEER REVIEWING OF RESEARCH PROPOSALS
Recent governmental programs to invest in science and technology as a countermeasure to the economic downturn promise an unparalleled incentive for basic research but may also result in thousands of additional research proposals submitted to national research councils. The unprecedented magnitude of these investments represents a challenge for the organizations that implement them and justifies that international peer review procedures are the preferred method for evaluation of the proposals. This study presents the perspective of the Human Frontier Science Program (HFSP) as an example for the successful conduct of international peer review. The HFSP operates a small funding program to support intercontinental collaboration and training in the basic life sciences. The program funds international, interdisciplinary, and innovative projects by encouraging novel collaborations of scientists from biology and neighboring disciplines. Because of its global reach, international peer review procedures and the rigorous selection of HFSP awards are essential for its success. Diversity at the reviewer level in terms of nationalities and scientific expertise reduces the risk of conflicts of interest and assures fair evaluation of academic track records. During the selection process reviewers should follow clear criteria so as to build up credibility and reputation.