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EU sets out plans to align around research assessment revamp


Plan to focus on genuine performance would be open to institutions outside the bloc

The EU has set out the principles it hopes will underpin a shake-up of research assessment to be implemented by bringing together and aligning a coalition of stakeholders committed to reforms—primarily from within the bloc, but open to others around the world.

In a scoping document it published on 26 November, the European Commission revealed it is concerned that current research assessment systems use “inappropriate and narrow methods” to assess the quality of research and researchers, placing too much importance on publication in journals with high impact factors.

The Commission wants researchers to be evaluated “based on their intrinsic merits and performance” rather than on their number of publications, and where their papers are published.

Between March and November, a consultation gathered views on how this might be achieved. It aimed to identify how the Commission could “facilitate and speed up reform” so that the quality, performance and impact of research and researchers are assessed “on the basis of more appropriate criteria and processes”.

According to the scoping document, the plan is for research funders and national assessment agencies to come together and agree to develop assessment criteria that—among other things—reward research that meets the highest standards of ethics and integrity.

The document also encourages the development of assessment tools that value “the diversity of research activities”, reward “good scientific practices like early sharing and open collaboration”, and support “different researcher profiles and different career paths”.

The Commission wants the agreement to promote “qualitative judgement with peer-review, supported by a more responsible use of quantitative indicators”.

“The way in which the system is reformed should be appropriate for each type of assessment: research projects, researchers, research units and research institutions,” it says in the document.

“A reformed system should also be sufficiently flexible to accommodate the diversity of countries, disciplines, research cultures, research maturity levels, the specific missions of institutions and career paths.”

The Commission has proposed that it act as a facilitator and a signatory, bringing together a coalition primarily within the EU, but open to organisations from elsewhere.

Financial support will be needed, it said, while the cross-border European University Alliances could provide a testbed for the reforms.