N° 2 November 2017
Welcome to the second ENRESSH newsletter!
With the public consultation on the next European Framework Programme for research about to start, a lot of thinking is currently put into priorities and opportunities throughout Europe. And into the best way of making use of the European research potential. Through its most recent activities and deliverables, ENRESSH brings materials that can inform the debate.
Several journal papers and book contributions written by our participants, often in collaboration, after a Short-Term Scientific Mission, highlight the value and contribution of the Social Sciences and Humanities (SSH) to tackling the societal challenges Europe is facing.
If you would like to better understand the extent to which SSH research is vital for Europe and answers the needs and aspirations of European citizens, you can still apply for our first training school. It is dedicated to “Understanding and stimulating SSH impact and engagement with society”. We would be happy to welcome you in Croatia from the 13th to the 16th of February 2018.
Building a research programme asks for thinking in advance about its evaluation. Our report on projects investigating SSH scholars’ notions of research quality, as well as the list of national institutions dealing with SSH research evaluation, offers new perspectives on this complicated issue. And you will most certainly be interested to read a philosopher’s reflections on metrics!
Wishing you a pleasant reading, best regards,
Chair of ENRESSH
Miso Dokmanovic (Ss. Cyril and Methodius University in Skopje, Macedonia) stays at ETH Zürich
Miso Dokmanovic (Ss. Cyril and Methodius University in Skopje, Macedonia) stayed at ETH Zürich (Zürich, Switzerland) with Michael Ochsner for a Short Term Scientific Mission (STSM). Together they organized a round table on brain drain in Macedonia. Michael was invited to present the results of the survey they did during the STSM. Also, he gave a lecture to BA, MA and PhD students on research quality.
The event had an immense response by local tv, radio and newspapers.
Introducing Christoph Köller
I am Managing Shareholder of G&K, a consultancy company based in Germany. G&K expertise is on transferring knowledge from academia into society and the economy in order to create innovation. For over 25 years I have developed – together with academic partners – several methods to assess the impact of research, including SSH and museums. These methods are still in use by scientific institutions.
Since almost 10 years I am working together with SSH research institutes, helping them to transfer their knowledge into society and economy. Many of these projects are funded by the German government.
I am deeply involved in several projects about measuring impact. One of these projects – for the German Museum of Natural Sciences in Berlin – develops a new approach that explicitly tries to distinguish between intended and not intended impacts.
Based on my work I was invited to join several advisory boards (e.g. ACCOMPLISSH, Knowledge Transfer Center-program/Austria, iScout/Helsinki, VIP+-program development/Germany). We were also a member of the VIN-SSH-consortium that applied for the Reflective-11 call.
Finally, I would like to mention that I have established (and am now leading) the SSHA valorisation working group at ASTP-Proton, the largest KTO association in Europe. I also was invited to give workshops and talks about the topic „SSH and impact“ at Net4Society/EU-, AUTM/USA-, SARIMA/SA-, TII/EU-, ISPIM/EU-conferences and to quite a few single events at universities (e.g. University of Guimaraes, University of Copenhagen).
I joined the network because I would like to share some ideas I am working on; this goes along with the hope to get feedback and insights in how network members deal with impact management. Based on the knowledge that I was lucky enough to collect over the years I am more than happy to contribute to the ENRESSH success!
Message to ENRESSH
Dear members of a wide and diverse ENRESSH community,
I am really glad to have this opportunity to address you with the aim to support all of you in your endeavour to engage with SSH research and to suggest the best ways and methods of its evaluation.The global strive towards unification and simplification applied to research evaluation can harm specific areas and underestimate their impact to the society.
I come from the country that has dealt with the the specificity of the SSH by founding a special committee in the Research Council of Lithuania, one that I have been chairing for almost 10 years. The institutional structure made it possible to promote and evaluate SSH research in a different way. Nevertheless, it was and it is not an easy task, mostly because informed decissions on research policy makers and its funders have to be based on investigations, research on research, revealing specificity of objects of research, methodologies, and field-based discourse conventions.
As a former national delegate to a number of European institutions such as the European Science Foundation, ERA NET PLUS network HERA, the SSH programme committee of 7FP and that of Social Challenge 6 in “H2020”, the working group “Research data” in Science Europe, and at the COST scientific committee, I have generally experienced an overall positive attitude towards a specifid approach to SSH evaluation. However, what has been lacking at the decision making level has always been a firm theoretical and experimental basis for such a specific evaluation procedures.
From the outset, I have followed the developments within ENRESSH closely, thus, the question that ineviatbly comes to my mind is “who should be reponsible for sound criteria and other important issues of research evaluation“?. A silent assumption is that the evaluation of research is totally in the hands of policy makers, funders and, to a certain extent, research evaluating experts. But this is certainly not as it should be. The evaluation of the SSH, as for the research and dissemination of its results, is above all a matter for the SSH communities themselves. This is what makes ENRESSH all the more important as it alone offers a unique opportunity to propose a well-based researcher‘s view on research evaluation.
I wish you all you need to fullfil your endeavour,
with warm regards,
A vice-chair of the Research Council of Lithuania
Professor of linguistics at Vytautas Magnus University in Kaunas
An analysis of the research evaluation systems from across Europe has shown some interesting typologies of how European countries use research evaluation frameworks. This raises questions about why countries select certain evaluation tools over others and how they link with the research system.
“What is missing”, says Michael Ochsner, a key researcher in the project, “is a clear message about what each country wants to achieve from the evaluation”.
Resolving this question would more clearly align national intentions with effective and relevant evaluation policies for the social sciences and humanities.
Preliminary findings from a study surveyed seventy specialists on research evaluation from 34 countries across Europe, and showed 5 distinct clusters of how countries organize research evaluation. The countries have been classified according six distinct variables that classify whether the evaluation is nationally focused, linked to research funding, based on metrics or peer review, and/or whether it is specific for SSH research. The identified clusters show a remarkable diversity of evaluation systems across Europe. For example, in Poland, evaluation is organized at the national level and is primarily indicator-based. Another example, Switzerland, emphasises quality of research, and not quantity.
“This does not mean that countries must work towards a unified approach”, says Ochsner “but rather it is interesting that different countries have different evaluation systems in place”.
According to the study’s authors, the focus of the evaluation framework within a country does not always correspond with the needs of their respective research systems.
“It seems that for many countries, there is currently no conscious link between what is being evaluated in SSH research, and why”, states Ochsner.
The next steps for the research are to investigate how the evaluation is performed in more detail, especially in relation to SSH evaluation.
Relevance and Impact
In Working Group 2, we are busy preparing for our training school in Croatia in February next year. We have now finalised the last of the speakers and the scientific and social programmes. There is a call for applications on the ENRESSH website, but it might be that you receive this newsletter after the deadline closes (30th November 2017). We want to make opportunities to access this exciting interactive event as wide as possible for our newsletter readers, so if you mail me quoting the code CROATS218 then we will endeavour to deal with your application (even after the official closing date!).
Paul Benneworth (Chair Working Group 2, Evaluating the societal impact of SSH research).
Databases and Metrics
Currently, the working group on databases and uses of data for understanding SSH research (WG3) mainly focuses on (1) a pilot study working towards an integrated European database of SSH research output, and (2) international comparisons of databases and publication patterns.
We have set up a pilot study to integrate publication meta data from institutions in four countries (Belgium (Flanders), Finland, Norway, and Spain) into one system. For this we use the Finnish VIRTA data warehouse. The has so far proven the viability of such an integration as well as highlighted a number of challenges regarding data interchange. We are currently preparing a report on the work in which we will showcase a selection of possible uses for institutional management. In case you are interested in contributing data for your country or institution, please contact Hanna-Mari Puuska.
Over the past few months, results of our international comparisons of databases and publication patterns have been presented at conferences.
- At the STI conference in Paris, Janne Pölönen showed how international comparisons can aid the identification of a ‘gray zone’ of peer review – a group of publications for which it is unclear to what extent they have been peer-reviewed. Linda Síle discussed the extent to which national databases can be claimed to be comprehensive.
- At the ISSI conference in Wuhan, Emanuel Kulczycki presented a comparison of publication patterns between Flanders and Poland, illustrating that countries with different historical backgrounds may also publish in different ways. Gunnar Sivertsen discussed peer review as a delineation criterion in the assessment of scholarly book publishing.
- Most recently, at NWB2017 in Helsinki, Linda Síle discussed methodological challenges in cross country comparisons of SSH publication data, while Andreja Istenič Starčič gave an overview of issues related to data policies of SSH journals.
Early Career Investigators
This special interest group composed of early career investigators at ENRESSH continues to conduct interviews with young scholars throughout Europe. Inquiring into the different stages of career paths of young researchers, we attempt to investigate the role that evaluation plays in shaping up their professional lives.
What are the challenges this vulnerable community of the research ecosystem faces? How do we attract the attention of stakeholders, playing the key role in the evaluation system, to the needs and fears of the young scientific minds?
These are only some of the questions we try to tackle in the special interest group.
Our focus is not only on the diversity within SSH disciplines, but also on gender issues as well as the variation between geographic regions. With members from as many as 15 countries, we continue to explore the situation of young researchers in Northern, Southern, Western and Eastern Europe. The ENRESSH Action provides an excellent platform to inquire into the impact of evaluation on the career trajectories of the next generation of researchers in SSH. Follow us for further updates!
The World of SSH: General News
Professors Ineke Sluiter, a classicist from Leiden University, and Rafael Wittek, a sociologist from University of Groningen, both lead a research consortium that has received a prestigious Dutch Gravitation grant. A total of six consortia were awarded. Each research consortium receives € 18,8 million over a period of 10 years. The Gravitation programme intents to stimulate the collaboration of top researchers in the Netherlands, to carry out innovative and influential research.
Science minister Bussemaker was happy with the selection of two SSH consortia: ‘I am pleased that on this occasion research proposals within the humanities and social sciences have been awarded funding as well.’ Furthermore, Minister Bussemaker was enthusiastic about the diversity of men and women within the consortia: ‘Diversity within science is important. Four of the six main applicants are women and a large proportion of the researchers within the consortia are women. That was not the case in previous rounds.’
The selection procedure contains of two stages. In the first stage, proposals are assessed in three separate scientific domains: the humanities and social sciences, the natural and technical sciences, and the biomedical and life sciences. The best proposals proceed to the second stage, with one plenary selection committee.
The criteria are: (1) Quality of the researchers involved and of the consortium (weighting 30%); (2) Quality of the scientific research programme (weighting 35%); (3) Organisation structure and policy of the consortium (weighting 25%) and (4) Knowledge utilisation (weighting 10%).
Main applicant: Prof. I. Sluiter (Leiden University)
The ancient Greeks and Romans were great innovators. New ideas abounded in science and technology, literature and arts, politics, the economy and many other domains of life. How did those innovations come about? How do inventions and new ideas turn into actual (accepted) innovation? This is studied by a team of Dutch classicists (OIKOS).
Our hypothesis is that tradition and innovation are not simply juxtaposed or even opposed. In successful innovations, people perceive a meaningful coherence between the new and the familiar. For this multifaceted phenomenon OIKOS uses the concept of ‘anchoring’. Developing this concept in an investigation of Greco-Roman antiquity results in a new and better understanding of innovation processes of all times.
SCOOP: Sustainable Cooperation – Roadmaps to a Resilient Society
Main applicant: Prof. R.P.M. Wittek (University of Groningen)
Cooperation is key to resilient families, communities, and organizations. Through cooperation, individuals can realize benefits they cannot achieve on their own. But why do some cooperative arrangements decline, whereas others remain impressively stable and thrive? Will our current cooperative arrangements remain effective when confronted with major societal transformations, like population aging, mass migration, and the digital revolution? Integrating the expertise of sociologists, psychologists, historians and philosophers, SCOOP investigates novel solutions to enhance sustainable cooperation in the domains of care, work, and inclusion. An innovative mixed-method research design assesses their effectiveness and delivers evidence-based policy advice.
WG1 Report on Projects on SSH Scholars’ Notions of Research Quality in Participating Countries
Parable on Metrics
(based on old animation, circa 1968)
Once upon a time there lived a little goatling who was able to count to ten. He started counting every animal in the forest and around for no apparent reason. The countable were supposed not to move because the entire calculation would not succeed. Of course, this annoyed everyone starting from calf ending with pig. Animals were angry because the experience, according to its name, was scary and hurtful. The accountant’s status was not clearly defined, nobody granted him permission to calculate them, and moreover, it looked like he was mocking the elders. One might even suspect that those animals represented not only different species but also different epistemological styles…
The counting goatling was given a chase by all those he counted. Oh, all those numerophobes in SSH… The chase ended at the ferry, which nearly sank because of the excessive passengers’ number. As capacity of the ferry was up to ten passengers the authoritative vessel’s captain needed to know the exact number of persons on board. And only the goatling was able to provide this kind of life-saving information. Thus, metrics saved lives and consequently the goatling got a highly paid and, what is even more important, a socially acceptable position – from now on he works as a security officer and counts the ferry passengers on the entrance.
Afterwards the calf became an adamant supporter of the goatling, so he went to school. All the other animals seem still to be unable to count…
What did we learn from that? Thou shalt learn the art of counting. It might be needed. It is impossible to predict when. And being able to count thou shalt respect other epistemologies and not annoy the ones you count. Or thou shalt provide very good reasons for the value of your endeavour.
Aldis Getudis is a professor and senior researcher at the Centre for Studies of Social Change, Klaipeda University (Lithuania)
The next keyword is forthcoming
6-8 December 2017
Society for Research into Higher Education
7-9 March 2018
PEERE International Conference on Peer Review
Rome, Piazzale Aldo Moro, Italy
16 – 18 April
Annual conference of the European Association of Research Managers and Administrators
29th of May – 1st of June 2018
SARIMA Annual conference
Johanesburg, South Africa
4-7 June 2018
Conference of the International Network of Research Management Societies
6-8 June 2018
European Forum for Studies of Policies for Research and Innovation
25-28 July 2018
European Association for the Study of Science and Technology