San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment (DORA)

The San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment (DORA) is a global initiative intended to guide the way in which research is assessed at the point of recruitment and promotion and in the awarding of project funding. Since 2012, all actors involved in the evaluation of research can sign up to DORA. In particular, DORA signatories commit to (1) open and transparent evaluation, (2) taking into account various forms of research output and impact, and (3) not using journal-based metrics as a surrogate measure of the quality of individual research articles.

Ghent University signed DORA in 2020, thereby committing to implement the recommendations addressed to research institutions and funders. This commitment is an integral part of Ghent University’s commitment to evaluate research in a responsible way.

Importance for a university

For Ghent University as a research institution and research funder, this implies that:

  • the quality of the research, and not the journal in which (nor the publishing house by which) the research was published, is central to evaluations. This means that journal-based metrics are not used as surrogate measures for the quality of research. In other words, quantitative indicators at journal level (such as the Journal Impact Factor, JIF) may not be used to assess the quality of the scholarly work of individual researchers (in the context of awarding project funding, recruitment and promotion)
  • there is transparency and openness regarding the criteria used in the evaluation of research
  • evaluations take into account the quality and impact of various forms of research output, not just scholarly publications
  • various forms of impact are evaluated, using a wide range of indicators, including qualitative ones

Importance for researchers

Researchers themselves play a major role in the evaluation of research: they are evaluated and provide information to this end, and they act as evaluators. Individual researchers can sign the San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment. In that case they commit themselves to:

  • as evaluators, not let themselves be guided by journal-based metrics, but base decisions about recruitment and promotion or about awarding project funding on the content of the research being assessed
  • using a wide range of indicators to describe (the impact of) one's own research and that of others, e.g. in CVs and letters of recommendation
  • distancing themselves from evaluation practices that make inappropriate use of journal-based metrics, and promoting alternative evaluation practices instead.

In addition, researchers, just like publishers and organisations that supply or produce quantitative indicators, help shape the context in which evaluations take place. According to DORA, researchers can do this by referring in their publications to primary articles instead of review articles (to do justice to the original authors). For publishers, it is recommended to put less emphasis on the impact factors of their journal(s) and to make more quantitative indicators available at article level. Organisations that supply quantitative indicators are urged, among other things, to make their source data and methods for producing quantitative indicators openly available.

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