Europe needs a common approach to assessing research careers
By Jan Palmowski
The pandemic made the move to open science inescapable. Scientists, students and the public alike relied on free access to academic papers, at a time when libraries struggled to switch to online-only provision. Indeed, the global sharing of data has been critical in fighting Covid-19.
The past year has also highlighted the need to make Europe’s science more effective. The desire to overcome fragmentation made existing plans to revitalise the European Research Area and better integrate Europe’s national research and innovation systems all the more pressing.
The ERA must change how research careers are assessed across Europe, not least to better account for practices such as open science. The Commission seeks to make the most of the momentum building around the Leiden Manifesto and the San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment, which urge a move away from narrow quantitative indicators such as journal impact factors as proxies for research quality.
The challenge, then, is to create a better system of research assessment across Europe that evaluates fairly all that constitutes excellent research. How can we better reward the creation of data according to ‘Fair’—findable, accessible, interoperable and reusable—principles? And can we find a way to do justice to risk-taking by valuing excellent research even if it generates negative results?
From the perspective of universities, it is important to reflect on the contribution of academics, not just researchers. After all, most academic roles encompass research and teaching. They often also involve leadership responsibilities.
Together, the ERA relaunch, the reset caused by the pandemic, and plans to create a European Education Area present a unique opportunity to discuss appropriate recognition for education and research, as Europe seeks to create a common perspective on higher education.
Academic careers are often international, reaching across Europe and beyond. Indeed, a key purpose of ERA—and the EEA—is to enhance mobility. This is another reason for building a common European approach to improving career assessment that also speaks to research systems in other parts of the world.