Friday, 31 December 2021

Reforming research assessment: nice declarations, little action?

There seems to be a consensus among universities and research funders that research assessment should not be based on crude quantitative metrics, such as: numbers of articles, numbers of citations, journal impact factors, the h-index, etc. The 2012 San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment (DORA) formulates principles which could greatly improve research assessment if they were applied, although I would argue that the DORA is misguided in its recommendations to authors. The DORA has been signed by thousands of organizations: just for France this includes the Academy of Sciences, CNRS and HCERES. More recently, the European Commission has issued a report called Towards a reform of the research assessment system, which deals with the same issues and promotes similar principles.

Since the same principles have to be reiterated 9 years later, you may think that little has changed in all that time. And you would be largely right. Significant reforms of research assessment in individual organizations are so rare that they are newsworthy. And some universities are denounced for taking actions that directly contradict the principles they have officially endorsed.