The global context of research asessment

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Research Information Live came to a close today with a powerful discussion about research assessment and the issues within the current ecosystem, especially within the global context. On the panel, we had a broad range of perspectives on this topic, and the speakers delivered excellent presentations of the work they are doing in this field. 

Jonathan Adams, Chief Scientist at Institute for Scientific Information (ISI), first of all spoke to the importance of research assessment and the purpose set by the research body, whereby it is now a formalised process that is factored into funding formulas on many levels, including government and policy.

Adams shared data from a recent report from ISI, which showed that the relative citation impact (a measure of research output) is increasing in many countries across the world, especially in the UK. He also stated that research assessment has changed the way that research management is now done and also viewed. These changes in management, however, were before the advent of research assessment – this was seen particularly in the data gathered from Australia, and Adams cited an increase in international collaboration being a factor in this increase in output. Adams concluded by saying that the “global context has a profound influence on national research outcomes. This acts through the individual researchers and their networks, but national policy may tweak, steer and incentivise.”

Vinciane Gaillard, Deputy Director for Research and Innovation at the European University Association continued the discussion by sharing details of her work particularly with the Coalition for Advancing Research Assessment (COARA). Gaillard stated that the current research system is unsustainable in its current state, especially the cost to the individual researcher and their mental health. So the work at COARA seeks to reform research assessment at all levels and with all actors, so that change can be systemic and interoperable. To round out her presentation in a global context, Gaillard ended by saying “researchers have new frontiers, so it is important that this is a global reform.”

Last, but by no means least, Stephen Curry, Chair of the Declaration on Research Assessment (DORA) steering committee, presented his perspective on the issues with the UK-based framework for research assessment, the REF. Firstly, he made the argument that the ‘excellence’ in the name creates a focus on the output rather than the researcher, which can consequently introduce bias into the system. There is a need for greater transparency as well, which all the speakers agreed with, especially as we are moving towards open research. Curry made the case for taking a closer look at research culture and how it ties in with research assessment. Some changes have already been made for the next REF submissions, as Curry mentioned. 

Together with the work happening in the UK, Europe and further afield, the research assessment landscape is definitely evolving in the global context and this will involve all stakeholders in the research ecosystem.

 To view the full webcast, please see the on-demand replay on the Research Information website here.

Annabel Ola, editor of Research Information