Responsible researcher evaluation

The Academy of Finland grants funding based on competition and international peer review. The review of applications submitted to the Academy is primarily focused on a review of the research plan, but the evaluation of researchers is also essential, especially in the funding opportunities targeted at individual researchers.

We have always emphasised responsible researcher evaluation in our activities, and responsible science has been included in our funding principles for almost a decade. We continuously develop our review practices and have further specified the principles of responsible researcher evaluation as part of our funding process.

In 2020, we outlined that responsible researcher evaluation is a key element of responsible science. The aim is to move towards more precise guidelines that comprehensively take account of the activities of the scientific community. The policy is supported by our commitment to international and national declarations on research assessment, such as the Declaration on Research Assessment (DORA), the international Agreement on Reforming Research Assessment (CoARA) and the national recommendation on responsible researcher evaluation in Finland (PDF).

The Academy complies with the principles of responsible assessment

The Academy of Finland follows responsible practices in all research funding activities, taking into account disqualification and confidentiality, equality and nondiscrimination, open science and sustainable development.

The fundamental principles of responsible assessment are transparency, integrity, equity, competence and diversity. Our review practices, review criteria and decision criteria are described openly in the application guidelines and call texts, and they are freely accessible to all. In addition, as part of the review guidelines, the reviewers are familiarised with responsible assessment practices.

In decision-making, we will also take into account the many different career paths of researchers, the impact of research and the promotion of open access. The criteria and policies guiding the funding decisions are made available on our website before calls are opened.

Responsible researcher evaluation takes better account of the quality of research outputs

According to the principles of responsible researcher evaluation, instead of journal-based metrics, the evaluation places greater emphasis on assessing the research plan and the applicant’s competence (not based on quantitative indicators), as well as the scientific content and quality of the publications. The researcher’s merits will be assessed through a wide range of outputs and research career roles, taking account of any career breaks. These principles are considered throughout our funding process.

The Academy has adopted the updated CV template of the Finnish National Board on Research Integrity, which makes the researcher’s research outputs more visible in the review and decision-making process. In funding applications, we ask applicants to highlight up to ten key publications and up to ten other research outputs and to justify their importance in terms of the application and the researcher’s career. In addition, when applying for Academy Research Fellowships, applicants shall include in their applications a narrative section on merits and increasing competencies. In the section, the applicants shall describe how the funding will support them so that they can increase their competencies and make significant career progress towards more demanding research positions and achieve an established position in the national and international research community.

Key here is also that the use of journal-based metrics in the assessment is prohibited, nor may applicants attach metrics to their applications (e.g. journal impact factors (JIF) or JUFO classifications).

Furthermore, we do not consider that other, separate citation metrics comprehensively describe the impact, importance or quality of a publication or publications. Using metrics to support the review is not prohibited, but in our guidelines we emphasise that metrics use must be responsible and mindful of the problems associated with it. Citation metrics may potentially be misleading in peer review. It is a type of metrics that is dependent on the citation practices of different scientific disciplines. Therefore, it is not a reliably comparable indicator in review panels, which are often multidisciplinary.

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