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Science organisations present new evaluation protocol for research


More attention for societal relevance and integrity, less emphasis on productivity
The Minister for Education, Culture and Science, Jet Bussemaker, has just received the new Standard Evaluation Protocol 2015-2021 (SEP) from the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW), the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) and the Association of Universities in the Netherlands (VSNU). The new protocol for research evaluations emphasises the importance of the quality of scientific work; ‘productivity’ is no longer included as a separate assessment criterion. The SEP also requires greater attention for both the societal relevance of scientific research and scientific integrity. The protocol is applicable to all research carried out at a Dutch university and/or at institutes of NWO and KNAW.

The quality of research at Dutch universities and the NWO and KNAW institutes is assessed once every six years. That happens during research visitations by international panels of experts and colleagues. The assessment criteria and procedures for this are described in the Standard Evaluation Protocol. KNAW, NWO and VSNU have revised the protocol so that it better meets the requirements currently set by science and society.


Productivity no longer an independent criterion
The number of evaluation criteria has been reduced from four to three. The three evaluation criteria in the new SEP are: scientific quality, societal relevance and viability. The old criterion of productivity has been dropped as an independent criterion. With this the current criticism that the pressure to publish has gone a step too far in many disciplines has been acknowledged. No longer including productivity as a separate assessment criterion also gives a clear signal that 'more is not necessarily better’.


Attention for societally relevant research
In recent years attention for the societal relevance of scientific research has increased. The new assessment system has incorporated this by evaluating both the scientific quality and the societal relevance along three assessment dimensions:

  • research products such as journal articles, books, theses and other types of outputs like datasets, designs, prototypes;
  • use of these products, for example citations from research literature, use of software tools, use of scientific infrastructure by scientists or other target groups;
  • evidence of recognition from science and society.


Attention for the selected integrity of research
The new protocol requests research units to submit their policy for safeguarding scientific integrity. The recent cases of scientific misconduct have resulted in the universities, KNAW and NWO tightening up their integrity policy and paying greater attention to the proper and open use of research data. With these changes the science organisations expect to further strengthen awareness of the requirement for a proper and honest practice of science.
Supervision of PhD students
Finally, the SEP has also been expanded to include attention for the supervision of PhD students at universities. The experts will visit research schools and graduate schools so that recommendations for further improvement can be obtained.


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