A group of 30 prominent British and American scientists says the current process for approving scientific studies is counterproductive and needs to be changed.

In an open letter to London’s The Guardian newspaper, the scientists point out that almost all of the 500 major discoveries of the 20th century were initiated before 1970, and that many of those discoveries challenged the accepted science of the time and would probably not be funded today.

They say that since then, researchers have had to convince their academic peers the work would have enough benefits to justify the investment of time and money, restricting opportunities for open-ended research.

The scientists note that before the '70's, the available funds were more modest, but researchers were free to use the money however they saw fit. Nowadays, their proposals must include convincing evidence that the results would be beneficial for national policies.

The 30 signatories are calling for a new effort to support independent-thinking researchers like the ones who made major discoveries in electronics, nuclear power, biotechnology and medicine.