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Responsible research assessment

We are committed to assessing the quality of our research fairly and transparently.

The San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment (DORA)

As a signatory of the San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment (DORA), we support and promote the responsible use of metrics and quantitative indicators of research.

The Declaration recognises the need to improve the ways in which research is assessed. Since its development in 2012, it has become a worldwide initiative covering all scholarly disciplines and all key stakeholders including funders, publishers, professional societies, academic institutions and researchers.

DORA commits us to assessing research in all its forms through a process of qualitative review rather than using proxy measures of quality, such as publication in journals with a high impact factor.

Cardiff University signed the San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment (DORA) in 2019 which confirmed our commitment to ensuring that research outcomes are assessed based on their own merit, avoiding use of journal-based metrics. We are also committed to recognising the diverse suite of research outcomes generated by our research community when making funding, recruitment and promotion decisions. Our ongoing commitment to DORA reflects the importance we place on inclusive research and team science, aligned to our wish to support and enhance the career opportunities of all our staff, at all stages in their careers as evidenced by our work to enhance the research culture and environment at the university.

Professor Roger Whitaker Pro Vice-Chancellor for Research, Innovation and Enterprise

Our commitments

As a university:

  • we will not use journal-based metrics (e.g., journal impact factors) as surrogate measures of the quality of individual research articles when assessing an individual researcher’s contributions, including in recruitment, promotion or funding decisions
  • we will be explicit about the criteria we use to reach recruitment, tenure, and promotion decisions, highlighting that the scientific content of a paper is more important than publication metrics or the reputation of the journal
  • we will consider the value and impact of all research outputs (including datasets and software) and be attentive to a broad range of impact measures, including qualitative indicators of research impact, such as influence on policy and practice

As individual researchers and decision-makers:

  • we will make assessments based on scholarly content rather than publication metrics in decision-making (e.g., internal funding, recruitment, tenure, or promotion)
  • we will, wherever appropriate, cite primary literature in which observations and research findings are first reported rather than reviews, thereby giving credit where credit is due
  • we will use a diverse range of article metrics and indicators on personal and supporting statements as evidence of the impact of individual published articles and other research outputs
  • we will challenge research assessment practices that rely on journal impact factors and promote best practice that focuses on the value and influence of a diversity of research outputs

Key progress

Since Cardiff University signed DORA in November 2019, we have made significant progress towards implementing its recommendations. To ensure that we do not consider journal-based metrics in assessing an individual researcher’s contributions, we have reviewed and revised existing processes and documentation that relied (either explicitly or implicitly) on journal impact factors. We have:

  • updated probation guidance for academic staff, specifically citing DORA
  • created a set of recommended responsible research assessment interview questions
  • revised generic job descriptions for teaching and research staff to place the emphasis on the content of the research rather than its outlet
  • incorporated responsible research assessment into recruitment and promotions panel training

Colleagues on the University Academic Promotions Committee have discussed their engagement with DORA, noting its positive impact on promotions assessment practices:

DORA asks us to put the focus on what really matters when we evaluate promotion cases: the quality of research, and not where it has been published, how much has been produced, or in what form. In doing so, it provides a useful tool for the university to ensure fairness, protect diversity and value innovation in its promotion assessment processes. In short, DORA helps protect the integrity of one of the very reasons why universities exist, the production of excellent research, and ensure that recognition is given to staff for their contributions in a more inclusive and measured way.

Professor Manuel Souto-Otero Professor

We have also created a Policy Statement on Responsible Research Assessment to inform research staff and decision-makers on the responsible use of research metrics directing research evaluation and assessment undertaken at the University.

The University has established a DORA Working Group comprising academic and Professional Services staff across a range of career stages. The Working Group is chaired by the Dean of Research Environment and Culture, Professor Karin Wahl-Jorgensen.

More information

For queries or further information about DORA, please contact:

Dr Karen Desborough

Research Environment and Culture Officer