University of Oulu, 2019

Fair criteria for the assessment of researchers

The Finnish research community aims for a responsible researcher assessment process, where the scientific merit of an individual researcher is evaluated on the basis of the quality of his or her research, not on the basis of the journal in which the research is published. Responsible assessment also takes into account other research outputs, such as data and source code, as well as the broader diversity of researcher roles, such as teaching merit and societal impact.

The Finnish research community aims for a responsible researcher assessment process, where the scientific merit of an individual researcher is evaluated on the basis of the quality of his or her research, not on the basis of the journal in which the research is published. Responsible assessment also takes into account other research outputs, such as data and source code, as well as the broader diversity of researcher roles, such as teaching merit and societal impact.

In order to develop responsible assessment, the University of Oulu has started the process of building up a Researcher Responsible Assessment Policy.

“The new Policy is intended to complement the University's Program of Responsible Research that was published in 2018. Development of responsible assessment is important for the University, particularly for early career researchers, for whom there will be fairer and more transparent criteria for assessment and career advancement,” says Vice Rector Taina Pihlajaniemi.

The principles of responsible assessment to be considered include:

  • the objectives of the assessment and their clarity
  • differences between disciplines
  • equity and coverage
  • how metrics can support qualitative assessment
  • indicators used for assessment
  • monitoring the implementation of the assessment

The newly appointed working group will draw up a guideline for responsible researcher assessment, which will include e.g. principles of responsible use of metrics. In addition, the group will draw up an action plan for responsible assessment, which will ensure the implementation of the principles in practice.

University Rector Jouko Niinimäki signed the San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment (DORA) on January 1, 2020 as a starting point for the University's work on responsible assessment. DORA has been signed by more than 1,800 organizations, including universities, research organizations and funders, such as the Academy of Finland. DORA guides organizations to equality by emphasizing that they must not use journal-based metrics, such as Journal Impact Factors, as a surrogate measure of the quality of individual research articles, to assess an individual researcher’s contributions, or in recruitment, promotion, or funding decisions. DORA encourages universities, funders, and organizations that supply metrics to assess research based on the scientific content, not according to where the research was published.

“By developing responsible researcher assessment and signing the DORA declaration, the University of Oulu wants to show its researchers that we value the quality and content of their research, regardless of publication channel. The signing of the declaration is part of the process by which the University pledges to support and develop the use of responsible metrics and qualitative methods in the researcher assessment,” adds Pihlajaniemi.

Finland is also receiving a national recommendation for responsible assessment, coordinated by the Federation of Finnish Learned Societies, authorized by the Ministry of Education and Culture.

The University of Oulu's working group includes representatives from the research community and human resources services, as well as bibliometrics experts of the library. The working group will identify the needs for the change and measures to ensure that the recommendations of the action plan are taken into account in recruitment, funding and promotion decisions. The working group will update and publish guidance and criteria in 2020.

However, the work will not end with the publication of the policy, as the development of responsible assessment is an ongoing process. The criteria for the assessment shall be publicly available and regularly reviewed and updated.

Last updated: 27.1.2020