Research Assessment – let’s talk synergies and let’s walk collaboration
Next year F1000 celebrates its 10th anniversary. I have been with this pioneering open research publisher since its inception and the model of publication that we developed was deemed as revolutionary and radical at the time. Our proposition of pre-review publication with associated underlying data, followed by open, transparent peer review focuses on accelerating social impact, improving integrity, and reducing bias in the process. In addition, the model enables the recognition of a much broader range of contributions by the researchers, and supports and promotes collaboration.
Very significant progress has been made in these ten years. The European Commission’s instigation and signing of the Agreement on Reforming Research Assessment and its open support for the San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment – better known in the open research community as DORA – is an important milestone in the ongoing journey towards the brave new world of open research becoming the norm.
F1000 of course welcomes the Commission’s announcement: it is another step in providing crucial support to initiatives such as Open Research Europe to achieve its goals for a more equitable, impactful, and diverse research process. It is also evidence of the continued mainstreaming of open research into research culture and academic publishing. But this is no time for F1000 – or anyone involved in scholarly communication – to rest on our laurels. As with all agreements and declarations, signing up is just the start. Implementation is going to require all parties involved in the scholarly research system to collaborate, for the benefit of research, and for society more broadly.
The need to change researcher incentives and the research assessment system and measures used to enable a shift towards greater adoption of open research practice has long been recognised. We need to ensure that research assessment is fair and inclusive, considering not only all contributions to research but the contribution research has to make to society at large and to the collaborative endeavour of research, where data and findings (including null and negative findings) are open for all to use and build upon. But the entrenchment and simplicity of the current research assessment process together with the need to significantly change research culture has meant that progress has been slow.
It is therefore so pleasing to see the acceleration and proliferation of these vital initiatives around the world. This ranges from groups focussing mostly on research performing institutions such as the Coalition for Advancing Research Assessment (CoARA) in Europe, and the recent launch of the Higher Education Leadership Initiative for Open Scholarship (HELIOS) in the US, through to global initiatives such as the Global Research Council’s Responsible Research Assessment Working Group focussing mostly on research funders, through to DORA itself.
Critical to the success of these initiatives in my view is to recognize the synergies and maximize collaboration, in not only raising awareness and greater recognition and understanding of the importance of the underlying issues but in actually achieving the hard work of implementing the necessary changes. These growing initiatives themselves need to work closely together to maximize their impact and contribute a coordinated shift in their part of the collective ecosystem. But equally it is essential that all the major parties involved in the research ecosystem collaborate so that researchers don’t get trapped in the middle between differing requirements from their research funders, the research institution they are based at, and the venue of publication they use to communicate their research.
Academic publishers and others providing services to researchers to communicate their research and provide the crucial associated validation services are vital contributors to that ecosystem. It is therefore incumbent on all to ensure that they play a key role in collaborating, both between themselves, and with other parts of the research system to support and enable such a shift in the system.
In our 10th anniversary next year as F1000 (and as a member of the Steering Committee of DORA in what will also be its 10th anniversary year) I am looking forward to continuing to engage with these crucial initiatives and discussions, drawing on our experience over the last decade and our forward-looking vision for the next decade.