Research to be evaluated without grades or gold stars
“However, the evaluation will provide considerable assistance for self-help”, promise project managers Freddy Ståhlberg and Mats Benner.
These self-initiated self-evaluations are conducted at many major higher education institutions
worldwide and have a great influence on funding applications and internally for the development potential of research environments. Demands from both the wider world and within organisations are constantly increasing. The project leaders consider that prevention is better than cure.
“Above all, it’s about knowing where you stand and having control of your strengths and weaknesses. And the big question can be summarised as: are we doing the right things in the right way?”
It is now eleven years since the first major RQ08 evaluation was conducted. It provided important information and showed that LU had several strong and leading research environments. The new evaluation is to take things one step further.
“This time there is also an examination of relations to education and external engagement as well as the situation regarding infrastructure, interdisciplinary approach and management structure with goals and plans.”
RQ20 is a management assignment and vice-chancellor Torbjörn von Schantz is looking forward to following the project.
“The idea is that during the work we can learn from the processes in RQ20 in parallel with building up our own long-term quality assurance system”, he says.
FOKUS was introduced a few years ago.
“This was the Swedish Research Council’s model for evaluation, and none of the major higher education institutions were particularly fond of it. Therefore, it became important to find our own system for evaluation – and LU has now chosen RQ20.”
Freddy Ståhlberg is professor of MR Physics and has also been a member of the University Board.
When he was asked to be the RQ20 project manager, he did not hesitate.
“I think it’s very enjoyable to work on University administration and know how much previous self-evaluations have meant for the organisations in which I have been active.”
Mats Benner is professor of Research Policy and has participated in many higher education policy investigations and reports. As project manager, he is now involved in working actively on matters that he had mostly studied previously.
“I am switching hats from being an observer to being more operational”, he says and describes the assignment as a show of consideration for the University.
Self-evaluations are also a way to safeguard collegiality.
Mats Benner’s great hope is that RQ20 will be characterised by honesty and trust – that people will dare to give honest and correct answers to uncomfortable questions and not resort to self-defence.
To help them, the project managers have a reference group, which acts as a sounding board for ideas and ambitions. It also takes the process forward to their deans, who are to propose how their areas are to be divided up into different panels and evaluation units, which in RQ20 are called research environments.
The number of panels is based on the size of the faculties. According to the current proposal, for example, the Faculty of Medicine and Faculty of Engineering (LTH) get nine panels each and MAX IV one panel. The Faculty of Science gets six panels, Social Science four and Humanities and Theology three. The School of Economics and Management gets two, and Law and Fine and Performing Arts one each.
Every panel will have several research environments/evaluation units in which the self-evaluations will be conducted. Subsequently, each panel will be assigned four to six external advisors or assessors by RQ20’s management in consultation with the research environments.
“The important thing is that the people are credible and strong within their respective fields of research,
and are seen as being in an advisory role rather than a dispenser of grades”, explains Freddy Ståhlberg.
The evaluation will keep to certain basic facts on finance and bibliometrics: financial status, number of publications, and, if it is a relevant measurement, the citation trend.
However, the main part of the work concerns the research environments identifying their own strengths, weaknesses and development opportunities, on which they will then receive feedback from the external reviewers.
“The focus is not going to be just on maintaining minimum levels of quality management, but on what enables research at the highest international level.”