In our continuing efforts to support modern researcher careers, our association has signed the San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment and are encouraging all our Members to also become signatories
10th November 2020
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Supporting the development of researchers and their careers, and especially early-stage researchers, is of highest importance for our Members - and indeed all of Europe and beyond - to attract and retain global talent.

Ensuring full support for modern researcher careers is therefore urgently needed, as argued by our President Rik Van de Walle in an op-ed in Research Europe.

Research assessment is a central part of recruitment, development and promotion of researchers, and for allocating competitive research funding. However and as described in our recent white paper on Next generation metrics, many conventional research assessment methods rely too much on indicators (such as the journal impact factor). While simple-to-use, they provide a narrow view of research excellence and are detrimental to our modern understanding of excellence encompassing diversity in research careers and contributions.

The San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment (DORA) was adopted in 2012 as a call for action to facilitate the modernisation of research assessment which fully embraces modern approaches to research careers, and it contains a series of concrete recommendations to guide research assessment and to promote rewarding research careers.

In this context, our Board of Directors on 15 October decided that our association should become a signatory of DORA, and to encourage all our Members to also become signatories. You can check if your university is a signatory already by searching this list.

Signing DORA empowers stakeholders such as universities to progress in this area by signalling their intention for modernisation and providing an impetus for change, while empowering staff and researchers to promote and pursue good practice.

Organisations therefore do not have to have ‘completed’ their journey of institutional development before they sign DORA, but can instead leverage the declaration as a tool to help their advancement. In addition, it is vital to see DORA as complementing similar initiatives such as the Leiden Manifesto and the Hong Kong Principles, rather than competing with them.

A range of our Members have already signed, but a substantial portion have not. There is thus room for DORA to be a tool to help advance this area across our membership.

More details on how becoming a signatory can facilitate institutional development, and how it can be implemented, are available from several of our Members:

The overall developments around supporting modern research careers are also closely linked to ongoing developments in open science, as highlighted in our position Open Access in Horizon Europe.

The open access initiative Plan S launched by cOAlition S (a group of research funding organisations) will come into force in 2021. Wellcome Trust (one of organisations in cOAlition S) have stated in their new open access policy for 2021 that they will increasingly require that organisations are following the principles in DORA, so advancement in this area is timely.

San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment

The Declaration describes 18 recommendations for different stakeholders in the research community, and for institutions such as universities, recommendations 4 and 5 are of particular interest:

4) “Be explicit about the criteria used to reach hiring, tenure, and promotion decisions, clearly highlighting, especially for early-stage investigators, that the scientific content of a paper is much more important than publication metrics or the identity of the journal in which it was published.”

5) “For the purposes of research assessment, consider the value and impact of all research outputs (including datasets and software) in addition to research publications, and consider a broad range of impact measures including qualitative indicators of research impact, such as influence on policy and practice.”

Signing DORA does not imply any financial or legal obligations.

DORA and its recommendations are well aligned with our recent white papers on Next generation metrics, Boost careers of early-stage researchers, Advancing research data management, our Declaration on Equality, Diversity and Inclusion and our recent position Open access in Horizon Europe.

For any questions or comments, please do not hesitate to contact our Advisor for Research & Innovation Mattias Björnmalm at mattias.bjornmalm@cesaer.org.

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