The UK Research Councils have today (Wednesday 7th February) published a statement on the responsible use of metrics and signed the San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment (DORA).
The Research Councils want to encourage active discussion by the research community on this policy area and, where appropriate, set out good practice in the way that outputs of scientific research such as journal articles are evaluated by funding agencies and academic institutions. This is important as the research councils rely on high quality independent expert peer review to select the most promising research to support.
The Research Councils’ statement includes a commitment to update the principles that councils will use to guide researchers applying for research council funding, to guide reviewers in assessing these applications, and to guide evaluations of the work that results. Central to this guidance is a steer to not place undue emphasis on the journal in which papers are published, but assess the content of specific papers, when considering the impact of an individual researcher’s contribution. The statement sets out a brief action plan that will be developed further over time.
The Research Councils will continue to participate in the UK Forum for Responsible Metrics, a cross-funder, cross-research institution and researcher group that is leading the discussion on the responsible use of indicators to better understand research and research impact. The Forum is holding an event in London on 8 February to bring together stakeholders within the higher education sector to explore the emerging culture of responsible metrics in research.
Ian Viney, MRC Director of Strategic Evaluation and Impact, and Research Council representative on the Responsible Metrics Forum, said: "Research Councils are committed to these actions, which we will continue to develop over time. We want to actively work with the research community on issues that are important to strengthen fairness, diversity, robustness and effectiveness of peer review. Much of this statement emphasises what is current practice across the Councils, but with the rapid increase in accessibility of data about research we wanted to make clear our position that quantitative research indicators should be used responsibly."
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Research Councils UK (RCUK) is the strategic partnership of the UK’s seven Research Councils. Our collective ambition is to ensure the UK remains the best place in the world to do research, innovate and grow business. The Research Councils are central to delivering research and innovation for economic growth and societal impact. Together, we invest £3 billion in research each year, covering all disciplines and sectors, to meet tomorrow’s challenges today. Our investments create new knowledge through: funding research excellence; responding to society’s challenges; developing skills, leadership and infrastructure; and leading the UK’s research direction. We drive innovation through: creating environments and brokering partnerships; co-delivering research and innovation with over 2,500 businesses, 1,000 of which are SMEs; and providing intelligence for policy making. Find out more about our work at www.rcuk.ac.uk.
The seven UK Research Councils are:
UK Research and Innovation is a new organisation that, from 1 April 2018, will bring together the seven Research Councils, Innovate UK and Research England. The aim is to create a system that maximises the contribution of each Council and creates the best environment for research and innovation to flourish. The vision is to be the best research and innovation organisation in the world. More information can be found at www.ukri.org
The San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment (DORA)
DORA was initiated by The American Society for Cell Biology (ASCB) together with a group of editors and publishers of scholarly journals and published in 2013. As of August 2016 DORA was signed by 825 research organisations and over 12,000 individual researchers. A general recommendation made by DORA was to stop the use of journal-based metrics, such as Journal Impact Factors, as a surrogate measure of the quality of individual research articles. It promotes evaluation of publications by research content rather than the journal in which it is published when assessing an individual scientist’s contributions, or in hiring, promotion, or funding decisions. http://www.ascb.org/dora/
The Forum for Responsible Metrics
The Forum for Responsible Metrics(http://www.universitiesuk.ac.uk/policy-and-analysis/Pages/forum-for-responsible-research-metrics.aspx) is developing a programme of activities to support the responsible use of research metrics in higher education institutions and across the research community in the UK. It focuses on the recommendations made in the Metric Tide report (http://www.hefce.ac.uk/pubs/rereports/year/2015/metrictide/). The Forum will advise on, and work to improve, the data infrastructure that underpins metric use and the culture of research metrics, as well as offering advice to the UK higher education funding bodies on how quantitative indicators might be used in assessing research outputs, environments and impact in REF2021.