Growing evidence suggests that the evaluation of researchers’ careers on the basis of narrow definitions of excellence is restricting diversity in academia, both in the development of its labour force and its approaches to address societal challenges. The current research evaluation system is hampering diverse career pathways spanning research, teaching and (community) service. It inhibits the inclusion and retention of minorities, women, people from lower socio-economic backgrounds and meaningful public engagement with research. Improving the evaluation system in a concerted effort with research institutes and other funders will help fully realize a European Research Area (ERA) that is open to all talents. This diversity is essential to sustain academic careers, to strengthen the relevance and impact of science for society, and to enhance the resilience of our society and environment.
Advice to MSCA policymakers
Increasing attention to responsibility in, of and for research practices (as evidenced in Responsible Research and Innovation and Open Science in the ERA), has galvanized researchers and organisations to call for a change in the research evaluation system. While the academic evaluation landscape is shifting (as documented in the following pages), much remains to be done. The Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA) can spearhead these developments by implementing the following recommendations:
Broaden current evaluation criteria of MSCA calls in dialogue with all relevant stakeholders, making responsible use of the options outlined below, to enlarge and modernize the notion of excellence (as done with the Gender dimension). Reward applicants and organisations that engage in open and responsible research through public engagement, science education, open science and ethical research;
Provide (online) training for evaluators on implicit bias to reduce the risks of perpetuating narrow interpretations of research excellence in their evaluations;
Offer training within the MSCA programme, such as via Innovative Training Networks, to prepare researchers and organizations for open and responsible, academic as well as non-academic careers. This includes a focus on transferable skills such as leadership and community engagement and attention to societal challenges;
Reward and showcase MSCA grantees who excel in multiple dimensions of research, teaching, and service by showcasing and rewarding their work prominently on the MSCA website and social media;
Support knowledge exchange and communities of practice around diverse and inclusive forms of excellence by involving a wide range of stakeholders (including civil society) in the ongoing discussion around modernizing and diversifying the concepts of excellence, and what counts as good and impactful academic practice.
[ this is an excerpt, see pdf below for full policy brief ]