The evaluation of the FWF – the FWF as the object of evaluation

Political considerations make it imperative that a funding institution such as the FWF is itself the object of evaluation, in which its operation, its portfolio of programmes and its position in the national and international system for promoting scientific innovation are subjected to scrutiny. The evaluation of projects and programmes form an essential basis for such an evaluation.

The evaluation of the FWF and the FFF (as it was known at the time; it is now the Base Programme of the FFG) was undertaken between May 2003 and February 2004 and represented the first comprehensive evaluation of the two institutions since their establishment in 1967. The study was carried out to an internationally high standard by an international consortium under the leadership of Technopolis and combined the work of professional evaluators from within Austria and abroad with reviews obtained from international peers. These bodies not only analysed the structure, working practices and strategic direction of the two organizations but in their consideration of the impacts and positioning they also included large sections of the national system for science and innovation.

The reports of this evaluation are available under the following links:

www.fteval.at/files/evstudien/FWF_Evaluation.pdf
www.fteval.at/files/evstudien/FWF_Evaluation.pdf
www.fteval.at/files/evstudien/FFF_FWF_Synthesis_Report.pdf

The results of the evaluation gave important information on the condition and the organization of the overall system for supporting research in Austria. With regard to the governance and organization of the two institutions that were evaluated, the results were implemented and have also been taken into account in the reorganization of the funding system and in the Advisory Board for the Development of Research and Technology’s (RFTE’s) strategic considerations, as published in its 2005 paper “Strategy 2010”. 1 Furthermore, the results were taken into account in the FWF’s mid-term plans, as required by the FTFG in 2004 2, and in the annual work programmes. Together with the RFTE’s recommendations and the results of the FWF’s own evaluations of its projects and programmes, they represent a key basis for strategic planning.

The implementation of the results from the evaluation is an ongoing process. In the light of current developments, the FWF is making many key contributions, as far as it is able. At a national level, the Austrian research dialogue, the RFTE’s Strategy for Excellence and the systematic evaluation of research promotion and funding, which is scheduled for completion in March 2009, are the main initiatives. On the international level, the activities of the
EuroHORCS and the ESF and the development of the European higher education system and the ERC represent the major developments.

The good contacts to other international partner organizations ensure that the FWF’s evaluation activities are carried out in accordance with current international practice. Since October 2007 the FWF has been working with about twenty other funding organizations within Europe in the framework of a forum initiated by the European Science Foundation on the topic “Evaluation of Funding Schemes and Research Programmes–Expectations, Practices and Experiences”. The work is concentrating on exchange of experience and on further developments in the area.

A central theme of the Austrian Platform for the Evaluation of Research and Technology is that “a well developed culture of evaluation is a central part of a learning and strategically oriented policy for research and technology. At the same time, a good evaluation culture is a precondition and a consequence of good practices, i.e. efficient, transparent and fair procedures3. The FWF has no hesitation whatsoever in subscribing to this view.

1 RFTE 2005: “Strategy 2010: Perspectives for Research, Technology and Innovation in Austria [Strategie 2010-Perspektiven für Forschung, Technologie und Innovation in Österreich]“; www.rat-fte.at/UserFiles/File/Strategie2010.pdf

2 See the FWF Home Page Mehrjahresplan 2005 - 2008 (pdf, 135KB)

3 See the Platform’s “Evaluation Standards [Standards der Evaluierung]“ at
www.fteval.at/standards/