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Academic groups offer examples of responsible assessment

Case studies intended to help academic organisations make their assessment more holistic

Three academic groups have joined forces to provide examples of good practice in academic assessment, as part of efforts to shift assessment away from the use of coarse quantitative publishing metrics towards more well-rounded and fair methods. Examples of good practice have been lacking until now, representatives of the groups said.

“Documentation of good practice exists, but these examples often leave out valuable information about the process of change itself, such as the motivations [and] the people involved,” said a report published on 14 January by Bregt Saenen of the European University Association; Vanessa Proudman of the open science advocacy group Sparc Europe; and Anna Hatch, Stephen Curry and Ashley Lakoduk of the San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment, known as Dora. 

“Without this knowledge, the institutional changes needed for academic career assessment reform will stall,” Saenen and his co-authors warned, as they said: “While there is widespread consensus about the need to reform academic career assessment, the development and implementation of new policies and practices is happening slowly [in part due to] the size and complexity of the task”. 

The groups presented case studies of good practice in their report, and have launched an accompanying online repository on the Dora website. Considering similarities among the cases, they found that the actors involved differed, but that the cases commonly gained the backing of a broad coalition of actors to ensure their success.

Saenen and his co-authors recommended that efforts to improve academic assessment should include awareness raising and community engagement, and foster personal accountability in faculty and staff. They urged universities to “stress test” policies for unintended consequences and build in flexibility, so they can make necessary adjustments.