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The leaders of about 50 national research agencies in both the developed and developing worlds have announced the establishment of a Global Research Council (GRC) intended to examine issues of importance to science-funding agencies worldwide.

Subra Suresh, head of the US National Science Foundation (NSF), which has spearheaded the creation of the new council, said that its formation was "the first step toward a more unified approach to the scientific process".

The announcement of the council was made at a meeting organised by the NSF in Washington, DC, this week (15 May).

According to a report on Nature News Blog, the GRC has already agreed to observe six principles for using peer review to assess and fund scientific research projects — including transparency, integrity, impartiality and confidentiality.

"For funding agencies, peer review is our bread and butter. We have to pick the best ideas and people in the most transparent and ethical manner," Suresh said.

It is still unclear how the council will evolve. One possibility is that it could develop into an institution that brokers detailed agreement on best practices for managing and conducting research, and promotes collaboration and co-funding between nations, making it easier for heads of research funding worldwide to design multilateral projects.

The meeting included participants from China, Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

Glaucius Oliva, president of Brazil's National Council for Scientific and Technological Development (CNPq), noted that the agreement that peer review should be kept confidential could help his funding agency to resist potential freedom-of-information demands under Brazil's new open-government policies.

Following regional gatherings, the forum will meet in Berlin next year. At this meeting, Brazil and Germany will co-host discussions on research integrity and the promotion of open access to research data and publications.

Link to full article in Nature News Blog

Link to summit's outcomes [340kB]

See below for a video of the press conference: