The future of research assessment

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It is now thirty years since the UK’s first research assessment exercise took place in 1986. To mark this anniversary, Humanities & Social Sciences Communications will publish a thematic Collection on the future of research assessment. A strong cast of contributors, drawn from academia, management, policy and practice, will explore recent developments and debates in the UK and internationally.

Across research systems worldwide, policymakers, universities, funders and publishers are grappling with how to measure and assess the qualities and impacts of research. Since the mid-1980s, there has been a steady escalation in the quantity, reach and sophistication of research assessment. 

Several triggers lie behind this: pressure from governments for tighter audit and evaluation of public investment in research; demand by policymakers for more strategic intelligence on impacts and future priorities; the need for universities and other institutions to mange and develop their research portfolios; competition within and between institutions for prestige, students, staff and resources; increases in the availability of real-time ‘big data’ on research uptake; and the capacity of indicators, metrics and other tools for data analysis. 

Architects and advocates of assessment point to accompanying increases in research productivity and quality. But the relationship to outcomes is intensely debated, and critics argue that the burdens of audit and assessment systems, and the pressures and incentives they create, are having corrosive effects on research cultures, qualities and values.

We invite contributions from academics, policymakers and practitioners on the following themes:

  • The development, use and effectiveness of different policies, frameworks and tools for research assessment; 
  • The relationship between research assessment and outcomes, qualities and impacts;
  • Uses, merits and limitations of quantitative indicators and peer review in research assessment;
  • The politics and ethics of research assessment;
  • The effects of assessment on research cultures, careers, equality and diversity;
  • Responses to the growing influence of university rankings and league tables;
  • Altmetrics and indicators for assessing research qualities and/or wider impacts;
  • Gaming, unintended consequences and strategic responses to assessment;
  • The history, development and comparative analysis of national assessment systems;
  • Strategies for evaluating inter, multi and transdisciplinary research.

This is an open Collection and as such submissions/proposals will be welcomed at any point up until December 2022.

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