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Originality, Innovation


“Originality” is the property of a created piece of work as being new or novel, and thus can be distinguished from a “reproduction” or a “derivative work” (i.e. a reworking of the work created by somebody else).

  • Was the research project about something new, did it really contain or bring forward new ideas, or was it just rehashing (or reformulating) previously known results? Is the outcome of this research really an important step forward in the development or progress of our scientific knowledge?
  • Was the author acquainted with the up-to-date knowledge in this domain, so that he/she was fully aware of all previously obtained results?
  • Was the author (or authors) really the person (or persons) who came up with the ideas behind this research project? If they did elaborate on ideas of other people, did they adequately cite these references, so that they do not claim more originality than deserved, and did they add at least something new to the previously known facts?

It goes without saying that answering these questions requires the referee to be well acquainted with the subject and with the scientific literature in its field. This is an essential aspect of “peer” review: a scientific paper can only adequately be judged by an expert in the field.

In some cases it may be advisable to ask an external expert referee to submit a separate review about this aspect of the evaluation.


In spite of the etymological origin of this word, “innovative” means more than just “new”. Innovation is generally interpreted as the introduction of an original way to achieve something.

The outcome of a research project therefore can be called innovative if it may lead to a new methodology for the production of a good or a service. In principle, a research paper can be called innovative, even if there is no new scientific discovery; in this case, it should point out the possibility of a new way to apply previous knowledge. This term is very often used in an economical context: the new application should lead to a more efficient or a cheaper way to achieve its result.

  • Does the outcome of this research lead to new possibilities for the benefit of society in general?
  • Should patent rights be considered for the results of this research?
  • Is there a possibility for special applications in the developing world?