Amaya Moro-Martin asserts that the European Science Foundation (ESF) supported a “flawed evaluation process” for research in Portugal (Nature 514, 141; 2014). This unsubstantiated allegation undermines the foundation's work and is detrimental to the many excellent reviewers and panel members involved in the evaluation process.
The ESF champions the benefits to society from investments in research. We are very concerned about the increased pressure on many national science budgets. However, we believe that peer review, despite its limitations, is the most meritocratic and evidence-based approach to resource allocation. The work of those public-spirited scientists willing to give their time and energy to the peer-review process must be acknowledged, respected and supported. They should be allowed to undertake their work without interference.
During the course of the independent research evaluation implemented for the Foundation for Science and Technology in Portugal, the ESF has witnessed an unprecedented level of direct interference with peers and panel members in the performance of their work. Even while the review process is ongoing, many have received intimidating communications designed to discourage them from completing their agreed tasks. This practice is unacceptable and damaging to science.
It is in this context that we respond to Moro-Martin's remark. Although no evaluation process is perfect, it is the most independent system yet devised. The ESF has carried out this evaluation project in accordance with good practice (see go.nature.com/o4xfuz; to be updated on completion of the project).