KNAW, NWO and ZonMw to sign DORA declaration

18 April 2019

KNAW (Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences), NWO (Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research) and ZonMw (Netherlands Organisation for Health Research and Development) will sign the San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment (DORA) on 18 April.

DORA is a global initiative that aims to reduce dependence on bibliometric indicators (such as publications and citations) in the evaluation of research and researchers, and increase the use of other criteria. The declaration outlines a set of recommendations on how to improve research evaluation. KNAW, NWO and ZonMw fully endorse the principles laid out in the DORA declaration and will adapt their own procedures to it.

The DORA declaration was published in 2012 and targets research funders, publishers, research institutes and researchers. The declaration has already been signed by more than 1,200 organisations and almost 14,000 researchers around the world.

Signing the DORA declaration fits within the broader aim of developing new approaches for recognising and valuing researchers in the Netherlands. Moreover, this coincides with the transition to open science and open access. The key aim is to evaluate research and researchers on their merits.

Signing DORA means that organisations have to align their practices and procedures with the principles in this declaration. DORA is about more than just that, however. Endorsing the values of DORA requires a broader discussion within the scientific community about how researchers evaluate (each other) and about the criteria for evaluating scientific quality.

Joint follow-up actions

KNAW, NWO and VSNU (Association of Universities in the Netherlands, which had already signed the declaration) will team up to ensure that the DORA principles become firmly entrenched during the forthcoming review of the standard evaluation protocol (SEP).

As far as the KNAW and NWO institutes are concerned, staff policy will be made DORA-proof where necessary. Indeed, more attention will be devoted to the value of the content and the impact of the research, and other forms of output like citations or impact factors of journals will be taken into account as well. On 23 May, ZonMw and NWO are organising the conference 'Evolution or revolution?' to launch a discussion about rethinking how we recognise and value scientists. KNAW is organising a gathering for its members on 7 June to discuss the significance of DORA.


NWO and ZonMw’s follow-up steps

As a result of having signed the DORA declaration, NWO and ZonMw are planning to take the following concrete steps:

  • Identify (and substantiate) more clearly which criteria will be used to evaluate quality. This will be carried out for all funding instruments in the context of the specific objective of the instrument in question.
  • Remove all references to Journal Impact Factors and the h-index in all call texts and application forms.
  • Actively inform referees and committee members about NWO and ZonMw’s signing of DORA and the consequences that this will have for them, namely: that their main priority when evaluating research proposals must be the quality of the researcher and of the proposal’s content and not the prestige of the journals in which researchers have published or the statistics derived from that, such as the Journal Impact Factor or the h-index. A training activity is being developed for referees, committee members and secretaries.
  • Take other scientific outputs with scientific and/or societal impact into account as well (such as data, software, codes, patents, and so forth) when evaluating quality.
  • Maximise publication lists in applications. Ask researchers to explain in detail how they are contributing to their scientific field: why and what was the impact of their work on science and/or society? Some experience has been gained in this area already, among others through the pre-proposal pilot for the Veni scheme.
  • Accept preprints as research output, in line with recent policy changes introduced by the European Research Council (ERC).
  • Explicitly recognise open research practices by applicants in evaluation procedures and acknowledge their value. NWO is considering a pilot with an ‘open science track record question’ on application forms. Researchers would thus be asked about their commitment (in the past and in the future) to open science activities: open access publishing, sharing of preprints, sharing of research data and other kinds of open science.

KNAW’s follow-up steps

KNAW has further adapted its procedures and practices to the DORA principles during the past period. The guidelines for nominating members to KNAW and The Young Academy are already DORA-proof. The guidelines for awards and funding handled by KNAW will be brought more in line with the DORA principles.

In the coming period, KNAW will also focus on DORA’s points of departure by facilitating discussions between scientists. What are the benchmarks for evaluating quality? What kinds of opportunities have presented themselves? As a scientist, how do you proceed in practice when you have to evaluate dossiers as a member of an appointment committee, as a department head or as a peer reviewer for grants or for nominations and recommendations?

This discussion, which is already being conducted in various juries and committees, will take place during a member gathering on this theme on 7 June, for example.

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Source: NWO

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Contact

Mr O.R. (Olivier) Morot, spokesperson Mr O.R. (Olivier) Morot, spokesperson t: +31 (0)6 53175 377 o.morot@nwo.nl