The changing role of funders in responsible research assessment: progress, obstacles and the way ahead
The research community has responded to the Covid-19 crisis with speed, creativity and innovation. But the pandemic has also shone fresh light on the inner workings of research, and has intensified scrutiny of how research is funded, practiced, disseminated and evaluated, and how research cultures can be made more open, inclusive and impactful.
The uncertain possibilities of the present moment follow a period in which concern has intensified over long-standing concerns over aspects of research assessment. As attention shifts from describing these problems, towards designing and implementing solutions, efforts are now coalescing around the idea of responsible research assessment (RRA). This is an umbrella term for approaches to assessment which incentivise, reflect and reward the plural characteristics of high-quality research, in support of diverse and inclusive research cultures.
This working paper explores what RRA is, and where it comes from, by outlining fifteen initiatives that have influenced the shape and direction of current RRA debates. It goes on to describe the responses that these have elicited, with a particular focus on the role and contribution of research funders, who have more freedom and agency to experiment and initiate change than other actors in research systems.
The paper also presents the findings of a survey of RRA policies and practices in the participant organisations of the Global Research Council (GRC)—mainly national public funding agencies—with responses from 55 organisations worldwide.
Published to coincide with a November 2020 Global Research Council (GRC) virtual conference on responsible research assessment—and co-authored by a team drawn from the Declaration on Research Assessment (DORA), Research on Research Institute (RoRI), CWTS-Leiden and National Research Foundation of South Africa,—the paper serves as a primer for the RRA agenda as it intensifies worldwide.