A new research assessment culture is beginning to take root in the European Research Area. Over 50 scientific organisations and institutions have joined the initiative CoARA - Coalition for Advancing Research Assessment and signed the Agreement on Reforming Research Assessment, including the German Research Foundation DFG, the Dutch NWO, and the Austrian Science Fund (FWF). Under the terms of the Agreement, qualitative criteria and aspects such as open science, inclusion, and diversity in the sciences are to be given greater consideration when evaluating research proposals. For example, Norway’s universities have already developed a comprehensive “toolbox for recognition and rewards in academic careers.”
For the FWF, joining this coalition marks the latest step in a development that has been in progress for many years. Several of the measures included in the Agreement have already been integrated into FWF’s application guidelines and decision-making procedures for some time, for example the ongoing development of the proposal and review processes to avoid basing decisions on quantitative metrics (like a researcher’s h-index or journals’ impact factor), taking into account a wider range of scientific achievements, providing information for reviewers on unconscious bias in the decision-making process, and the establishment of high standards on research integrity and research ethics. The process is subject to an empirical review by external experts at regular intervals to check for any potential distorting effects. The most recent analysis found that the odds of approval for FWF funding were not affected by applicants’ gender, age, or discipline.
Strong support for European Commission initiative
The Agreement was drawn up by European scientific and academic associations and the European Commission. Over 350 organisations were involved in the process. A website (CoARA - Coalition for Advancing Research Assessment) has been set up to provide further information on the reform process, an overview of all the signatory organisations, and the full text of the Agreement.