Strategy Evaluation Protocol (SEP) for research


In international comparisons, research at Dutch universities and research institutes continues to score well. Since the 1980s, the systematic evaluation of academic quality and relevance has greatly contributed to this. By continuously improving these systems, the universities and the research institutes of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW) and the Dutch Research Council (NWO) have shown themselves to be the owners of academic practice and to be safeguarding the high quality thereof.

Academic research evaluations are carried out with an evaluation protocol developed by KNAW, NWO and VSNU. The evaluation protocol is the core of the quality assurance system for research and has by now proven its great value. In 2013, the 2009-2015 Standard Evaluation Protocol was evaluated and fully revised by VSNU, NWO and KNAW to bring it more in line with the contemporary demands of science and society. A number of improvements have subsequently been incorporated in the SEP 2015-2021. The new SEP 2021-2027 was launched in 2020 and renamed the ‘Strategy Evaluation Protocol’ to further emphasise the role of the strategy that research groups follow. Current developments related to open science and the Recognition and Rewards of academics have also been incorporated in this protocol. From 2021 onwards, evaluations will be carried out according to the SEP 2021-2027.
Strategy Evaluation Protocol 2021-2027

The Strategy Evaluation Protocol (SEP) for 2021-2027 has been adopted by VSNU, NWO and KNAW. All research institutes and research groups at universities are assessed once every six years by an external evaluation committee. The SEP provides guidelines for evaluating research and research policy. The SEP evaluations give boards and research units the opportunity to monitor and improve the quality of research as part of the ongoing institutional quality assurance cycle. 

The SEP is a flexible instrument, intended to achieve maximum benefit from research evaluations with a minimum of effort. The evaluation is based on three criteria:

  • quality of research;
  • social relevance of research;
  • viability of the research group


The 2021-2027 protocol has been renamed the Strategy Evaluation Protocol to emphasise that research is evaluated in the context of a research unit's self-defined goals and strategy. In preparation for the evaluation, a research group will write a self-assessment report of up to 20 pages, which should address the aforementioned criteria. In addition, the self-assessment should cover specific aspects such as open science, academic culture, HR policy and PhD policy. The research units themselves will determine which indicators they consider relevant in evaluating their research. 

The evaluation committee judges the self-assessment report and visits the research group for a 'site visit'. Together with the self-assessment report, this site visit will form the basis for the committee's opinion. Research units will no longer receive quantitative assessments; going forward, the emphasis will be on qualitative assessments that the unit can work with in future. By addressing the aspects of open science, academic culture, HR policy and PhD policy in the evaluation, societal developments such as the recognition and reward of academics will now also be incorporated in these.