The European Commission has published a report summarising the outcomes of extensive consultations with European and international stakeholders from March to November 2021.
Assessment of research quality and impact, and of researchers’ performance, is crucial to selecting which proposals to fund, to deciding which researchers to recruit, promote or reward, and to identifying which research units and institutions to support.
Research is currently undergoing a digital transformation, becoming more collaborative, open, and multidisciplinary, and producing a larger diversity of outputs. At the same time, the current research assessment system often uses inappropriate and narrow methods and criteria to assess the quality, performance and impact of research and researchers. Notably, the quantity of publications in journals with high Journal Impact Factor and citations are currently the dominant proxies for quality, performance and impact. Many research funding and performing organisations are already taking steps to reform and improve the way they assess research and researchers, but progress remains slow, uneven and fragmented across Europe.
The consultation with stakeholders covered how to facilitate and speed up reform of the research assessment system so that the quality, performance and impact of research and researchers are assessed on the basis of more appropriate criteria and processes. The report identifies objectives, principles and actions that could be agreed between the organisations responsible for the assessment of research projects, researchers, research units and research institutions.
The consultation suggested that assessment should promote qualitative judgement with peer-review, supported by responsible use of quantitative indicators. It should reward the quality and (potential) impact of research, and research that meets the highest standards of ethics and integrity. It should consider and value the diversity of research activities and outputs, as well as transparent research processes and methods. It should value teamwork and support different researcher profiles and career paths.
The report also proposes a way forward for the implementation of such principles and actions. This would consist of a European agreement to be signed by individual research funding organisations, research performing organisations, and national/regional assessment authorities and agencies, as well as by their associations, all willing to reform the current research assessment system.
30 November 2021