5/13/19 · Research

The UOC signs the San Francisco Declaration to encourage changes in research assessment

The University joins this international initiative to prioritize contents over metrics
Photo: Unsplash/helloquence

Photo: Unsplash/helloquence

The current research assessment system, which focuses almost entirely on impact factor, needs to be changed. This is the idea behind the San Francisco Declaration (DORA), an international movement that promotes research assessment based on the quality of research rather than the prestige of the journal publishing it. In its commitment to open knowledge, the UOC has joined the cause, with a view to applying its principles both in the field of research and at institutional level.

“We are committed to open knowledge as a key element in approaching the global challenges facing us as a society, which are set out in the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”, explains Pastora Martínez Samper, the UOC’s Vice President for Globalization and Cooperation. “This is why we subscribe to the DORA Declaration, to reaffirm our commitment to the transformation of research assessment towards more qualitative, transparent, just and inclusive formulas”.

By signing the manifesto, the University swears to promote qualitative research assessment according to the social impact of the results, beyond the metrics of publication. “As a university we are conditioned by the rules of the game of an entire system, but with initiatives like this, we seek to foster changes in our university that encourage the transformation of our research assessment system”, points out Marta Aymerich, Vice President for Strategic Planning and Research.

Aware of the need to involve the university community in this change, the UOC will provide its research staff with forums of debate to reflect on assessment and raise awareness on the practices promoted by DORA in research. To this end, the group promoting the signing of the Declaration is carrying out a set of presentations to all the University’s faculties and research centres and there will be a call for participation addressed to the whole academic community.

Open Knowledge Action Plan

It is not surprising that the UOC is one of the first universities in Spain to sign this declaration of intent. The commitment to open knowledge with and for everyone forms part of the University’s roadmap. This is why last October the UOC approved its Open Knowledge Action Plan, through which the University becomes a node of open and global knowledge, a space of exchange where the different actors that create knowledge interact.

One of the main guiding lines of the plan is research assessment, which aims to include qualitative indicators that prioritize the impact of research, open access and responsible research and innovation. This new approach targets not only the research results but all levels of research assessment activity, from researchers to research groups and centres.

A cross-disciplinary proposal

The signing of the DORA Declaration was the result of work by an interdisciplinary team comprising teaching and research staff from the Faculty of Information and Communication Sciences and the Internet Interdisciplinary Institute (IN3), as well as administrative staff from Library and Learning Resources, the Strategic Planning Office, Globalization and Cooperation, and the Knowledge Transfer and Research Support Office (OSRT).

To determine the implications for the UOC of applying the DORA Declaration commitments, the group prepared the document Implicacions de la signatura DORA (Implications of Signing the DORA), which the Research and Innovation Committee approved in late 2018. Moreover, the team is currently working on the analysis of possible institutional changes to aid application of the Declaration’s principles throughout the University.

First steps

One of the first actions undertaken by the UOC in the framework of DORA was to help improve the call for funding for postdoctoral placements. The goal is to implement a more comprehensive revision process over the next few months, one that can adapt the call to the principles of the Declaration for 2020. For this reason, the task force is organizing internal meetings to raise awareness of the implications of this initiative in the University’s activity.

In terms of scientific publications, the UOC publishes six scientific journals and three general interest journals in which it will make changes following the recommendations of the Declaration. As well as reducing the emphasis on the impact factor, the University wants to encourage responsible authorship practices, eliminate or reduce the limitations on the number of references in articles, and establish indicators or qualitative metrics.

The Declaration

Given the need to improve the way funding agencies and academic institutions, among other agents, assess scientific research, a group of editors of academic journals got together in the annual meeting of the American Society for Cell Biology (ASCB) held in San Francisco on 16 December 2012.

The meeting resulted in a series of recommendations, known as the San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment (DORA), urging a change in research assessment. To date, over 1,200 institutions have signed this declaration, with more organizations regularly joining: in the last year alone the number has tripled. The Declaration is aimed at all kinds of organizations in any scientific discipline, who can show their support by signing it publicly.

Marta Aymerich and Pastora Martínez will take part on 14 May in the European University Association (EUA) Workshop on Research Assessment in the Transition to Open Science, where they will talk about how the UOC is taking DORA on board.

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