The Netherlands Federation of University Medical Centres (NFU), the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW), the Dutch Research Council (NWO), Universities of the Netherlands (UNL) and each of the 14 individual universities have signed the European ‘Agreement on Reforming Research Assessment’. This agreement between the European Commission, Science Europe and the European University Association (EUA) endorses the objectives of the national Recognition & Rewards programme. The agreement contains arrangements about how research results must be assessed in order to enhance the quality and impact of the research, but also ensure integrity. In addition, attention is explicitly given to recognising and rewarding academics for the various tasks they perform. In total, 350 organisations from more than 40 countries have indicated that they will sign the agreement. ZonMw also intends to sign.
The agreement contains principles and commitments regarding scientific integrity, quality and impact, the diversity of scientific activities and collaboration. One of its points of departure is that research must be assessed primarily on the basis of a qualitative evaluation, rather than on mere number of publication. Peer review plays a central role and is supported by the responsible application of quantitative indicators. The signatories commit to a timetable that stipulates that they will, after one year, share with each other how they are working on implementing the agreement and, after five years, evaluate their progress.
Many of the requested reforms have already been carried through in the Netherlands via the Recognition & Rewards programme. The fact that many changes are now also being implemented outside of the Netherlands is good news, since science is quintessentially international. The signatories are not confined to European organisations. With this agreement, scientific organisations throughout the world are sending a message that it is essential to reform the way in which research is assessed. In this way, all of these organisations are also taking steps to assess the wide variety of careers in the academic world in an appropriate way. Now it is up to the scientists to apply this agreement to their own working environment, appointments advisory committees and assessment committees.
The signatories will exchange practices and experiences internationally in order to learn from each other. This exchange is intended to contribute towards the adoption of internationally similar assessment practices, which will help ensure more equal career opportunities for scientists who are active internationally.
11 October 2022