Coffee, research assessment and Danish

Added by Sally Curry on 10 February 2010 13:23

I spoke at a conference on the subject of research publication and assessment in Denmark at the end of January, giving an overview of the UK’s perspective.

It was arranged by the Faculty of Health Sciences at Aarhus University to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the opening of the city?s Maternity Hospital and the 10th anniversary of the opening of the Health Sciences Library and Education Centre. The audience was drawn largely from this faculty but also from other disciplines in the university and from the State and University library at Aarhus and other university libraries.

Despite the rain and snow, the welcome was warm and the hospitality and friendliness of the Danes was boundless - but the subject of research assessment was a prickly one.

The background to the conference was the comparatively recent move by the Danish government to develop methods which would stimulate the creation of world class research in Denmark. Echoing a scheme already in use in Norway, the model chosen to assist in achieving this goal is the planned move of a portion of the funding from the existing financial support model, where research funding has been allocated according to long standing conventions, to one in which research assessment is deemed to be a key factor.

Researchers are now told that, the most important issue for assessment is where they are published not how much they are cited. Research outputs will be marked on a points system, with different points given based on the rating of the journal in which the work is published, and with flat rate of points for monographs, theses and patents.

This development, of course, requires use of journal impact factors but not all the relevant journals in Denmark, including some published locally, have pre-existing impact factors. It was therefore agreed that researchers themselves should decide on the relevant ranking for these journals. This exercise was carried out by 3-8 researchers in each of 68 different subject groups, drawn from those universities where the relevant research is undertaken.

It is not hard to imagine that one discipline will rate a specific journal far more highly than another and as a result there have been significant differences of opinion, if not controversy, over this issue in the Danish academic world despite the fact that this development only concerns 10% of the research funding budget. And as the lists of journals and publishers are to be updated annually, there is ample opportunity for the controversy to continue.

Not surprisingly, against this background, the UK system of ramping the research funding to the most successful universities drew much interest, and some controversy in itself, amongst the audience.  

It?s a system which seems to work in Norway but which has a long way to go before it is likely to settle down in Denmark.

A copy of my presentation from the event is available below.


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