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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 evaluated. 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.

Our commitment

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

By signing the San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment (DORA), we confirm our commitment to ensuring that research outcomes are assessed based on their own merit, avoiding use of research metrics. It also confirms our commitment to recognising the diverse suite of research outcomes generated by our research community when making funding, recruitment and promotion decisions. Our 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.

Professor Kim Graham Pro Vice-Chancellor Research, Innovation and Enterprise

As a university

  • We will not use journal-based metrics (eg 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 scientific content rather than publication metrics in decision-making (eg 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 specific research outputs.

Our progress

In April 2019, the University established a DORA Working Group (agreed by the University Executive Board and Senate in June 2018) to explore the integration of DORA principles and practices into our research environment and culture.

The Working Group is chaired by the Dean of Research Environment and Culture, Professor Claire Gorrara, who leads the implementation of a DORA action plan, acting on behalf of the Pro Vice-Chancellor Research, Innovation and Enterprise, Professor Kim Graham, who signed the declaration on behalf of the University.

The action plan, approved by University Senate in June 2019, is designed to enhance the University’s alignment with DORA. We have already taken the following positive steps:

  • Our guidance for academic promotion has been changed and focuses on the quality of a variety of research outputs.
  • DORA is cited in internal documents informing reviewers about the minimum expectations for Research Excellence Framework (REF) peer review. This document clearly states that research outputs must not be rated based on assumptions about the quality of the journal outputs are published in (journal impact factors).
  • Guidance on the probation procedure for staff on one-year probation has been amended and specifically cites DORA.
  • Guidance has been made available to staff concerning data management, open access and researchers' professional profiles in ways which support responsible research metrics.
  • Our mandatory training on research integrity now includes details about the principles of DORA.
  • We have appointed a Responsible Research Assessment Officer, Karen Desborough, to support the delivery of the DORA action plan and facilitate the use of responsible research metrics at the University (funded via Wellcome Trust ISSF funding).

Moving forward

  • Each of our three Colleges will consider how best to develop consistent performance expectations that adhere to the principles of DORA by sharing best practice.
  • Progress on DORA will be regularly reported at the University Research Integrity and Ethics Committee (URIEC).
  • We will review and update guidance and training for recruitment panel chairs, line managers and chairs of School promotion panels to include information concerning DORA principles and practice.
  • Research integrity leads in each of our academic schools will take responsibility for promoting responsible use of research metrics alongside best practice in research integrity and open science.

More information

For queries or further information about DORA, please contact:

Responsible research assessment enquiries