The GYA, the InterAcademy Partnership (IAP) and the International Science Council (ISC) Centre for Science Futures have released a synthesis paper which sets out the major drivers, opportunities and challenges for research evaluation reform and collates illustrative examples of change happening at global, regional, national and institutional levels. The paper is intended to serve as a prospectus for in-depth conversations with stakeholders including the global research community itself.
Evaluation practices are used to assess research proposals for funding decisions, research papers for publication, researchers for recruitment or promotion, and the performance of research institutions and universities among other reasons. “A dynamic and inclusive research system is profoundly important to attract the best young talent to work towards addressing increasingly urgent global challenges”, points out GYA Co-Chair Priscilla Kolibea Mante (Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology).
The research system is under pressure due to increasing expectations from multiple actors including funders, governments and the publishing industry, tensions between dynamics of competition and cooperation, an evolving scholarly communication system, a sometimes aggressive publishing and data analytics industry, and limited resources. If not managed, these issues can interfere with a just and fruitful assessment of research. The research enterprise must manage these demands and tensions while maintaining research quality, upholding research integrity, being inclusive and diverse, and safeguarding both basic and applied research.
The GYA, IAP and ISC Centre for Science Futures joined forces to take stock of debates and developments in research evaluation worldwide, drawing on a scoping group of scientists and a series of regional consultations. With a focus on public-sector research and the evaluation of research and researchers, the discussion paper is global in perspective, covering an agenda that is usually dominated by developments in Europe and North America.
Research incentive and reward systems, e.g., in Africa tend to reflect “international”, primarily Western, norms and conventions, but these systems are not always appropriate for local knowledge and needs and tend not to account for research for societal benefit. Moreover, publication models are often not context-sensitive, creating barriers to African research output.
“Thanks to the work of the scoping group, our working paper analyses diverse research cultures and systems, and explores ways in which they might participate in and influence the reimagining of research evaluation and assessment for the 21st century, in an open and inclusive way,” highlights Peter Gluckman, ISC President.
The global and collective memberships of the GYA, IAP, and ISC represent a broad cross-section of the research ecosystem whose diverse mandates can facilitate genuine systemic change. Recommendations by the three organizations and their members put forward in the working paper are structured around their roles as advocates, exemplars, innovators, funders, publishers, evaluators, and collaborators, with indicative timeframes for action.
Reinforcing this point, Masresha Fetene, IAP Co-President, underlines that “The GYA, IAP and ISC can provide intellectual leadership on the future of research evaluation and lead by example in shaping what success as a scientist looks like.”