Sector leaders quizzed in Elsevier survey back shift to more holistic methods of evaluating scholarship
Funding and public support for academic research are in peril if its benefit for wider society cannot be communicated more effectively, sector leaders have warned.
This work, which the Times Higher Education published in November 2023 (but was a global story), reflected on the growing calls for a better way to evaluate the impact and value of research. There is concern that the current focus on eminent journals will be frustrating to the general public (so the media and politicians) and that frustration will equate to a diminishing in trust, support, and so inevitably, funding. And that is really an existential risk for science.
A key problem is that assessments of research quality continue to lean too heavily on reviews of academic outputs such as journal papers and other publications. Barely half of the respondents, drawn from Australia, New Zealand, the Netherlands, the Nordic countries, Japan, the UK and the US, said they felt that existing systems of research evaluation “successfully incentivise work that can make a meaningful difference to the wider world”.
The UK has led the way on assessing impact, incorporating impact case studies into its Research Excellence Framework – which governs the distribution of £2 billion of public funding annually –from 2014, and increasing its weighting to 25 per cent for the 2021 exercise. Other funders, for example in Australia, have started assessing impact but are yet to introduce funding incentives.