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Coara seeks further global expansion

Image: Gabriella Bocchetti, University of Cambridge

There is international appetite for helping researchers, say leaders of assessment reform group

The Coalition for Advancing Research Assessment is chasing further international expansion, having highlighted its broadening base as it celebrated reaching 600 members this month.

Coara launched with 300 members in December 2022 to help organisations make their assessment of researchers fairer and more inclusive. Its members are signatories of the Agreement on Reforming Research Assessment, which includes pledges to adopt a more qualitative approach and stop inappropriately using metrics.

Appetite for change

Karen Stroobants, a vice-chair of the Coara steering board, told Research Europe that she thinks there is international “appetite to look at changes” intended to benefit researchers. 

She also suggested this would be beneficial for facilitating researcher mobility. “There are implications for mobility if you start to have too much divergence in assessment approaches,” Stroobants (pictured) said. “Researchers are probably some of the most mobile workers in the world, [so] I think it is important that we try to have coherence across countries.” 

Janne Pölönen, another steering board member who is also co-chair of the Coara working group on multilingualism and language biases in research assessment, said the coalition is building on work already underway at institutions around the world. “You have to remember that Coara builds on a decade of different kinds of recommendations and proposals for reforming different aspects of assessment,” he said.

The Agreement on Reforming Research Assessment was initiated by the European Commission, and Coara’s early membership was primarily European. But new members are increasingly global: in its announcement on reaching 600 members, the coalition stressed it has members in countries including Andorra, Chile and the United States. Membership provides access to working groups, events and resources.  

Asked about expansion in the US, Stroobants said: “Definitely, when we have been invited to build more stakeholder relations in the US—we are very keen to take those on.”

Reaching its first anniversary last month, Coara refreshed its steering board, welcoming new members including Pölönen. The board helps set the course for the coalition, which has ten thematic working groups and national chapters in various countries.

Stroobants, an ex-researcher and now director at CultureBase Consulting, stayed on, having helped to draft the reform agreement when Coara was still just an idea. She said at the launch it would be a challenge for the group to keep up its pace in gathering members, but with 17 having joined in the first half of this month alone, she is delighted with its progress. “For me, it’s a highlight…that we have seen that momentum kept,” she said.

This article also appeared in Research Europe