Who are your peers? Expert evaluation in the age of transdisciplinarity

Who is in the best position to assess the quality, originality and relevance of your academic work ?  In response to that question, traditional 20th century practice would suggest that those in the best position to assess your work are your colleagues active in the same scientific field and discipline as you.  In other words, your peers.  But in the open cross-disciplinary, or even transdisciplinary, world of the 21st century, is that still the best answer ?

Peer review has been and remains today the primary instrument employed to evaluate the validity, interest and excellence of academic research.  It is used not only in scientific publishing but also in many other areas, including grant funding, university recruitment and career development. In the peer-review process for scholarly work, project ideas and research results are subjected to the scrutiny of experts in the same field as the colleague whose work is being assessed. The approach operates best in narrowly defined fields in which a reasonably impartial review is possible. But in less narrow fields, or even fully transdisciplinary research, impartial review can be very difficult to achieve, and the importance of novel transdisciplinary ideas may never become widely accepted.[1] In order to sustain and improve effective evaluation of academic work in times of increasing complexity in the interactions among numerous scientific fields and rising concerns over the ethical, social and societal responsibility of research, the peer-review process needs to be re-examined and to embrace new approaches.  And that includes asking once again the fundamental question :  who are your peers ?

[1] M. E. Hochberg, J. M. Chase, N. J. Gotelli, A. Hastings and S. Naeem (2009) The tragedy of the reviewer commons. Ecology Letters, 12, 2–4. doi:10.1111/j.1461-0248.2008.01276.x.

Prof. Michael Matlosz


President of EuroScience
Professor of chemical engineering, University of Lorraine

Professor Michael Matlosz holds a BS degree in chemical engineering from the New Jersey Institute of Technology and a PhD in electrochemical engineering from the University of California at Berkeley (USA).  He began his professional research career in 1985 in the department of materials science at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (EPFL) in Lausanne (Switzerland), prior to appointment in 1993 as university professor of chemical process engineering at the University of Lorraine in Nancy (France). 

More recently, Professor Matlosz served from 2014 to 2017 as President and Chief Executive Officer of the French National Research Agency (ANR) in Paris.  An elected member of the National Academy of Technologies of France since 2011, Professor Matlosz was also President of Science Europe, the Brussels-based advocacy association for European research performing and research funding organisations.  Currently a distinguished professor of chemical engineering at the University of Lorraine, Professor Matlosz began in July 2018 a four-year term of office as President of EuroScience, the European Association for the Advancement of Science and Technology.

Mélanie Marcel

Founder of SoScience

Mélanie is the founder and CEO of SoScience, an organization harnessing the power of science and technology to generate positive impacts for the people and the planet. Through her passion for exploring the intersection of science and global impact, she became a recognized expert on the field of Responsible Research and Innovation. She published her first book on the topic in 2017. She is an Echoing Green Fellow (2017), Ashoka Fellow (2018) and won the 2018 Grinnell College Innovator for Social Justice Prize. She is an expert at the European level regarding responsible innovation policies and programs to facilitate science with and for society. She is Member of the Board of Mouvement Impact France, Vice-President of the Scientific Board of La Fondation MAIF, and part of the Mission Committee of Sublime Energie.

Dr. Véronique Halloin

Secretary General of FNRS and President of ESF

Véronique Halloin obtained her degree in chemical engineering in 1986 and a PhD in applied sciences in 1992.
She became a full professor at ULB (Brussels) in 2000, leading the chemical engineering group until 2008. She was president of the School of Bioengineering (2002-2006), and vice-rector for research and development (2006-2008)
Since October 2008, she has been Secretary General of the F.R.S.-FNRS, the funding agency of the French-speaking part of Belgium that supports basic and strategic research.

She is Secretary General of the Conference of Rectors of the Universities of French-speaking Belgium and is member of the General Assembly of Science Europe and of EUA.
She is a director of several boards (Academia Belgica, Welbio, the Queen Elisabeth Medical Foundation).
She is a Belgian delegate to the Finance Committee and the General Council of CERN, and to the Global Science Forum (OECD).
Since March 2020, she has been President of ESF-Science Connect.

Dr. Jonathan Best

Insight Manager- Research & Analysis at the Wellcome Trust

Jonathan has been at Wellcome since March 2013 initially overseeing management and processing of all the grant applications from Academia and Industry for Wellcome. He then joined the Data Insights Team as an Insight Manager in May 2016. He currently oversees research and analysis and leads research activities relating to decision-making for allocation of research funding and peer review.

He has a degree in Zoology from UCL (University College London) and a PhD from the University of Cambridge. Following this, he conducted post-doctoral research at Dartmouth Medical School, New Hampshire USA. Prior to Wellcome, he worked at Merck, Sharp and Dohme as a team leader investigating therapeutics for neurodegenerative diseases in particular Alzheimer’s Disease. He worked in biotech at Summit plc as leader of the cognition project, and CellCentric, where he was the Project Director responsible for overseeing the drug discovery programmes being conducted by Contract Research Organisations.

Dr. Mostafa Shawrav

President of MCAA

Mostafa has been the Chair of Marie Curie Alumni Association (MCAA) since 2020. He was a Vice-Chair of the association between 2018 till 2020. After working over 10 years in an academic environment in Austria, Belgium and the Netherlands, he recently moved into industry. He currently manages several European R&D Projects. He is a high level expert for an European Project on Knowledge Ecosystem. He contributed to the supervision guideline published by the MSCA Unit. 

Previously, He worked as a Post-doctoral researcher at European Research Council funded project at TU Wien. His efforts and achievements have won him several international awards. His involvement in MCAA since its establishment helped him understand the challenges faced by researchers from different career stages and various scientific and geographical backgrounds. This inspired him to become active and organize training for mobile researchers in sustainable research careers, careers outside academia, science diplomacy and entrepreneurship.