The Coalition for Advancing Research Assessment (CoARA) approves the proposal submitted by Crue, ANECA and CSIC for Spain

  • The initiative is a significant step towards improving assessment in line with the international research community and to avoid possible malpractice

Madrid, 18 July 2023. The Steering Board of the Coalition for Advancing Research Assessment (CoARA) has approved the proposal of National Chapter Spain submitted by Crue Spanish Universities, the Spanish National Agency for Quality Assessment and Accreditation (ANECA) and the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC). The European reform initiative opens an opportunity to reflect on the research evaluation system in Spain and will allow proposals for improvement to be put forward in line with the rest of the international research community so that research and innovation in Spain can continue to grow in excellence and, academic and societal impact.

Moreover, CoARA has approved the constitution of the working group on reforming academic career assessment, promoted by the European University Association (EUA) and with the support and collaboration of 32 university associations, including Crue. This working group, whose activities will be spread over two years, will be coordinated by Pastora Martínez Samper, member of the EUA Advisory Board for the reform of research assessment, member of the Crue Commission for Open Science and commissioner for international action at the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (UOC).

Based on the conviction of the need for the academic community to drive reforms in the evaluation of the quality and impact of academic activities and careers, this working group aims to reflect on the reform of academic career assessment based on models that consider the variety of activities that academics carry out in research, learning and teaching, innovation, management, leadership, and service to society. Over the next two years, this group will work to develop an adaptable and flexible tool for academic career evaluation that considers all university missions and the broad scope of activities, skills, and competences of academic staff at different stages of their careers. This tool should adjust to different institutional profiles and national contexts, accommodating a diversity of approaches and career paths.

The reform of research assessment to which the Spanish University System is committed is a significant step towards avoiding cases such as the bad practices detected in some researchers who have published a huge number of papers or who have signed them as professors at foreign universities for which they did not actually work in exchange for remuneration. Eva Alcón, President of Crue and Rector of the Universitat Jaume I, welcomed the approval of the National Chapter Spain and stressed the importance of ‘moving towards holistic and dynamic approaches that seek a more qualitative assessment, with indicators more focused on innovative publications and less on the number of publications’.

An inadequate system of incentives and resources

Alcón also drew attention to the ‘strong pressure’ under which researchers are to publish constantly. She also stressed the current ‘inadequate system of incentives and resources’ in the field of research and called for ‘bringing them into line with those of our neighbouring countries’. In any case, she stressed that this reality ‘does not justify any dishonest behaviour with the trust that society has placed in Science, because the University is a point of reference for social transformation and a mirror in which the public looks at itself’.

Finally, the president of Crue has indicated that these cases are particularly painful for the university and scientific community and that, ‘fortunately, they are isolated and dealt with rigorously when they are detected’.

Crue Spanish Universities joined CoARA last December – an initiative initially promoted by the European Commission, Science Europe, and the European University Association (EUA) – with a collaborative and shared learning approach to promote new assessment methods.

For its part, ANECA’s new management decided to join CoARA last April as it considered it essential to participate in the debates that have been taking place in the European and global contexts on the need to reform research assessment models.

A new assessment culture

Pilar Paneque, Director of ANECA, welcomed the approval of the National Chapter for Spain and highlighted ‘the special commitment and responsibility that joining CoARA and participating in the coordination of the National Chapter entails for a research activity evaluation agency’. The Director of the National Agency stated that ‘ANECA is now initiating a huge task to adapt to the principles of CoARA, but it does so with enthusiasm and with the conviction that this reform will allow progress towards a new assessment culture, which guarantees a responsible use of indicators, which reduces the pressure to publish, allowing for a greater diversity of scientific contributions to be assessed, and which achieves a greater scientific and social impact’.

The Spanish Chapter has been conceived as a collaborative space in which Spanish entities interested in the reform of research evaluation can exchange ideas, good practices, experiences and knowledge, taking into account the specificities of the Spanish context.

El Capítulo Español permitirá planificar los objetivos a alcanzar con la reforma en los resultados e impacto de la investigación en España para 2030; co-diseñar posibles sistemas de evaluación con la contribución de las instituciones y organizaciones que conforman el ecosistema de investigación e innovación en España; probar los resultados de esta reforma en forma de proyectos piloto en las diferentes instituciones receptoras, considerando el impacto en los organismos evaluadores, y en los elementos a evaluar (individuos, unidades de investigación, instituciones y proyectos), y aplicar la reforma simultáneamente a nivel nacional y de forma gradual para minimizar un impacto negativo en las carreras de investigación que se están desarrollando actualmente.

National Forum

With this aim in mind, last January, Crue and the Ministry of Universities launched the National Forum for the Reform of Research Assessment, in an event held at the University of Barcelona. This forum was set up as a space for joint work and reflection with all the universities, which are the backbone of the Spanish science, technology and innovation system and generate more than 70% of the scientific production carried out in Spain.

The Spanish Chapter will allow the following:

  1. Plan the objectives to be achieved with the reform in the results and impact of research in Spain by 2030.
  2. Co-design possible evaluation systems with the contribution of the institutions and organizations that form the research and innovation ecosystem in Spain.
  3. Test the results of this reform in the form of pilot projects in the different recipient institutions, considering the impact on the evaluating bodies, and on the elements to be evaluated: individuals, research units, institutions, and projects.
  4. Implement the reform both simultaneously at a national level and gradually to minimize a negative impact on the research careers that are currently being developed.