Impact and Quality at Forefront of EUA’s Reforming Research Assessment

Jul 20, 2022 | Blog

Today the European University Association (EUA) announced the publication of the Agreement on Reforming Research Assessment paper. The document makes public the final 8th July agreement at a Stakeholder Assembly of more than 350 organisations across 40+ countries worldwide, composed of universities, research centres, associations, authorities, agencies, funders and other bodies.

The 23-page Agreement emphasises “the overarching goal to maximise the quality and impact of research”, and will begin collecting signatures at a launch on 28th September at the R&I Days.

One of the core suggestions is that assessment should be primarily conducted by qualitative judgment, supported by the “responsible use of quantitative indicators”, with peer-review a critical component. The system must also be more inclusive and collaborative.

The proposed reforms also include a sharper focus on impact alongside quality:

“Recognise the contributions that advance knowledge and the (potential) impact of research results. Impact of research results implies effects of a scientific, technological, economic and/or societal nature that may develop in the short, medium or long-term, and that vary according to disciplines and research types (e.g. basic and frontier research vs. applied research).”

Focusing on Research Impact over Academic Impact

Interestingly, the document focuses on “scientific, technological, economic, cultural and societal impact”, but specifically rejects the “inappropriate” use of journal- and publication-based metrics, including Journal Impact Factors (JIF), which it considers “can be a hurdle to the recognition of diverse contributions and may negatively affect the quality and impact of research”.

This represents a further step in the direction towards research impact as a priority over academic impact, with a view to assessing the wider impact of work beyond academia.

Furthermore, there is a greater focus on transparency around data collection, algorithms and indicators, which can be vital for demonstrating impact.

The main section of the document concludes with two deadlines:

  1. Signatories are expected to align activities according to an action plan with defined milestones by the end of 2023 or within one year of signing the agreement.
  2. Signatories will continually review progress with a touch point at the end of 2027 or within five years of signing the Agreement – after at least one cycle of review.

Given the interconnected and “cascading” challenges faced by the world, this focus on research impact should be very welcome as a way to transparently track genuine progress and help move the needle towards objectives such as the SDGs.

If you would like to learn more about impact, adapting your research culture to manage new requirements, measuring and reporting impact with evidence, or other similar questions, then please do get in touch with us for a conversation!