Role of societies in helping improve research assessment

By Brooks Hanson (American Geophysical Union)

Scientific societies have a key role to play in changing and improving assessment of researchers. Many are key publishers of quality content and many of their journals are recognized as such without the burden of journal impact factors. They also play key roles in shaping the scientific culture of disciplines, including around ethics, authorship, and outreach, including in discussions at meetings and in career workshops. Societies primarily confer awards and honors including early career awards, best paper awards, and fellowships that recognize outstanding scholarship. Many volunteer and community service efforts are through societies—as editors, leaders, and reviewers. Societies thus could play an important role in helping shape and change the culture of research assessment by using these leverage points in productive ways—by adding to expectations and criteria around high quality research to include and foster open science; community service; team science; data, methods, and software development; education; career development, and more. For example, fellowship in most societies is now based solely on outstanding research. Many of the criteria do not also include or expect additional leadership around these other topics. Instead these are handled as additional, one-off awards. Consider the impact if multiple societies collectively asked also for leadership criteria or at least recognition around these other topics. Societies are also engaging in efforts around equity, diversity, and inclusion, which are critically needed to level initial playing fields and address bias in career advancement. Collective action may be needed to overcome inherent inertia and inhibitions in improving long-standing guidelines and criteria.

Some discussions that AGU has been having at meetings around this topic are here: