Author: Tatiana Duque Martins.

Tatiana Duque Martins represented the Global Young Academy (GYA) Working Group “Optimizing Assessment – Promoting Excellence” at a symposium on “Research assessment and quality in science: perspectives from international science and policy organizations” at the 4th Conference of Research Integrity (WCRI) on 2 June 2015 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. ICSU promoted this symposium to gather higher education representatives, policy makers in governmental organizations and young scientists from the GYA to have a discussion on the impact of the actual assessment systems on science quality and research integrity.

From left to right: Ellen Hazelkorn, Carthage Smith, Robert McLaughlin, Merry Bullock, Tatiana Duque Martins, Roger Pfister and Leiv K. Sydnes
From left to right: Ellen Hazelkorn, Carthage Smith, Robert McLaughlin, Merry Bullock, Tatiana Duque Martins, Roger Pfister and Leiv K. Sydnes

ICSU Committee on Freedom and Responsibility in the conduct of Science (CFRS) is concerned that replacing peer review with quantitative assessment in scientific research and the use of some of these assessment metrics to calculate scientific merit, as observed as a common attitude worldwide, may decrease quality of research outputs and, therefore, undermine scientific integrity. In order to launch a movement to avoid this, an international workshop on science assessment and research integrity was carried out in April 2014 in Beijing. This meeting resulted in the CFRS statement of principles on “Science assessment and research integrity”, which is not completed, since actions needed to be addressed.

Taking up the discussion carried out at the workshop in Beijing 2014, the WCRI symposium 2015 focused on the real purposes of science assessments and if they are aligned with science development and dissemination. Another important topic were the characteristics of reward systems which are currently applied. Are reward systems really promoting the scientists career development and is  the scientific community involved  in their development?

Within this discussion, Tatiana presented the perceptions of members of the GYA Working Group “Optimizing Assessment – Promoting Excellence” on the impact that the assessment systems practiced nowadays have on the career development of young scientists in several countries. She highlighted the fact that too much pressure on publishing can stimulate misconducts and compromise research and science quality. Also, the imbalance of reward systems worldwide is promoting severe brain drain from developing to developed countries, which weakens science as a whole. As a suggestion to fight with this scenario, research integrity should be assumed as an assessment criterion. Overall the reward system should focus on skills and achievements rather than on publishing numbers. Further input came from controversal comments from the audience which asked  whether metrics and rankings would be needed at all. After all, there are many charateristics of research, such as social impact of research products, which the actual metrics are unable to cover.

To sum up: Things are about to change in science development and the young scientists will be facing an opportunity to be actors and have a central role in great and decisive changes.