Research ∕ Learning

Research assessment and the library ...

Lorcan 2 min read

I am pleased to note the appearance of a new report on research assessment and the role of libraries. This has been prepared as part of our Research Information Management stream of work in support of the RLG Partnership.
The study is a comparative review of formal assessment regimes in five countries. Such assessment regimes exist to monitor public research spending in various ways, and are specific to national circumstances. Although such regimes are not universal, evaluation, ranking and assessment of various sorts are becoming more common and some of the library responses discussed (bibliometric assistance, reputation management, names and identifers, institutional management of research outputs) may be of quite general interest.
This is from the introduction by the authors, the UK consultants Key Perspectives:

This study was designed to review research assessment regimes and the role of research libraries within those assessment processes in five countries, each of which takes a different approach to assessment. At the beginning of the project it was postulated that libraries occupy an interesting position within the academy, both belonging to an institution yet to an extent separated from it. There is–arguably–a set of ‘research library values’ that remains independent of local, institutional values, enabling libraries to occupy a unique and constructive role in the development and support of research assessment processes. Libraries have an understanding of scholarly communication processes, and they are currently in a state of rapid transformation to keep pace with the way scholars work. They understand the broad range of outputs and the publishing behaviour of scholars across disciplines, and the methodological constraints, limitations and variances that pertain to assessment exercises. This report provides an insight into the extent to which research libraries have so far been able to leverage the particular skills and experience their staff possess to position the library at or near the operational and strategic centre of institutions’ responses to the internal and national requirements of research assessment processes. [A Comparative Review of Research Assessment Regimes in Five Countries and the Role of Libraries in the Research Assessment Process PDF]

My colleague John MacColl writes about the report at more length and offers these thoughts …

The Review provides a fascinating account of different cultural understandings of the purposes of assessment, and a glimpse of the trend of concentrating research excellence in a small number of top universities that is now taking shape in many countries, as the competition for research income, top faculty and students becomes one that occurs within a single international marketplace. We found countries that tied research assessment to large amounts of government funding, and others that did not (yet); countries that operated systems based on bibliometrics and others that mistrusted them; countries that devised league tables of journals and awarded points to researchers on those they published in – and others that assembled national panels of experts to determine the rankings.

Libraries are involved in these assessment exercises in a range of ways, from the clerical (data entry) to the highly strategic, and from the specialist (bibliometric expertise) to a role as providers of general infrastructure (institutional repositories). Whatever differences there may be in the assessment systems adopted by different countries, they all share a focus upon the research outputs produced by their researchers and faculty. These outputs are managed by libraries – both indirectly (via publications) and, increasingly directly (via arrangements with the authors themselves at pre-publication stages). Does this suggest that libraries play a central role in research assessment within their institutions? Or that they should? At the very least, shouldn’t libraries seek a shared view on this question?[National systems of research assessment and implications for libraries]

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