Responsible researcher evaluation

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

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

In 2020, we outlined that responsible researcher evaluation is a key element of responsible science. The policy is supported by our commitment to both international and national declarations on research and researcher 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).

We follow the principles of responsible assessment

The fundamental principles of responsible assessment are transparency, integrity, equity, competence and diversity. The Research Council’s 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 decision-making, we 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.

Quality over quantity

In keeping with the principles of responsible researcher evaluation, researchers’ merits are assessed through a wide range of outputs and research career roles. A major focus in reviewing applications is to evaluate the quality of the research plan and the applicant’s competence, not quantitative indicators such as citation or journal-based metrics. The review also places ever greater emphasis on the scientific content and quality of publications. Career breaks are also taken into account when assessing research merits. These principles are considered throughout the Research Council of Finland’s funding process.

We have 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 their key publications and other research outputs and to justify their relevance in terms of the application and their research career. In addition, when applying for Academy Research Fellowships, applicants shall include in their applications a narrative section on merits and increased 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 applicant’s competence nor the impact, relevance or quality of a publication or publications. Using metrics to support the review is not prohibited, but we emphasise in our guidelines 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.

We provide reviewers and our decision-makers with orientation and guidance on the principles of responsible evaluation.

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