Luxembourg National Research Fund develops an action plan for responsible research assessment

Research culture is influenced by the ways in which research and researchers are assessed. For example, funding criteria such as journal prestige can cause researchers to focus their efforts on publishing in a small subset of scientific journals. Though this increases competition, it can inadvertently lead assessors to overlook other types of research outputs, contributions, and achievements. Because of this, the Luxembourg National Research Fund (FNR) is using research assessment as a key mechanism to improve research culture nationally. Sean Sapcariu, programme manager at FNR, shared their strategy at DORA’s Funder Discussion on December 16, 2020. For FNR, Sapcariu says, “The vision is to ensure that research maintains its attractiveness for current and all future generations.”

A major part of FNR’s strategy is the introduction of a narrative CV format in all funding programs. According to Sapcariu, the goal is to shift how quality is evaluated by adopting a more holistic perspective of good research. The narrative CV format can help achieve this by framing funding proposals in the context of researchers’ wide variety of accomplishments.

FNR’s narrative CV format is based on the Résumé for Researchers, which was developed by the Royal Society in 2019, and consists of a personal statement, academic profile and relevant skillset, and key outputs, contributions, and achievements. Similar to the intent of the Résumé for Researchers, Sapcariu says, FNR is placing a premium on contributions to the generation of knowledge, development of individuals, and contributions to the wider research community and broader society.

The information in the narrative CV is designed to complement what is captured in the research proposal. Sapcariu believes this additional context supports a more holistic and nuanced assessment of research proposals. To that end, evaluation criteria as well as reviewer guidelines are being adapted, and panel members will have detailed briefings on how to use the new CV. As a result, FNR hopes to expand the types of research outputs considered for assessment, including Open Science, mentoring, and leadership.

The narrative format is being used in all FNR calls and funding programs as of January 2021. According to Sapcariu, the next steps to ensure successful implementation include reviewer and panel training. FNR also has plans to build a feedback loop into the process so that the CV format can be improved upon as needed. A feedback survey is in place for applicants submitting proposals as well as reviewers who are evaluating proposals. The goal is to understand how this change affects proposal writing and evaluation, and to improve the process for the next round of funding calls. The other major change by FNR is to remove metrics from the assessment process by revising guidelines and where necessary removing them from application materials.

FNR also aims to increase visibility and public awareness of positive research culture by highlighting best practice and developing new awards, says Sapcariu. Starting this year, FNR’s Award for Outstanding Publication has been replaced with the Award for Scientific Achievement. There will also be a new award to recognize an outstanding research mentor.

In January, FNR organized a webinar with the Luxembourgish research community to explain the changes for research culture and have an open discussion, Sapcariu said. The webinar was well attended, and follow-up discussions have shown that the initial feedback on these changes has been quite positive. Researchers are happy to see a narrative CV in place and feel that it will help them better highlight their achievements in an evaluation.

FNR aims to be a leader for positive research culture in Luxembourg, Sapcariu emphasized. To that end, they plan to continue working with the Luxembourgish academic community on several initiatives. As a starting point, FNR will organize a workshop in 2021 to define shared values for research culture with Luxembourg’s academic community. Other plans include the establishment of a nationwide Research Culture Working Group involving all research institutions in Luxembourg, as well as “Café Cultures,” a series of open discussion forums similar to those initiated by the Wellcome Trust, to facilitate dialogue between primary academic stakeholders, such as funders, research-performing organizations, and researchers.

DORA’s funder discussion group is a community of practice that meets virtually each quarter to discuss policies and topics related fair and responsible to research assessment. If you are a public or private funder of research interested in joining the group, please reach out to DORA’s Program Director, Anna Hatch (info@dora.org).

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