Evaluation of researchers in action: Updates from UKRI and a discussion on the utility of CRediT

Each quarter, DORA holds two Community of Practice (CoP) meetings for research funding organizations. One meeting takes place for organizations in the Asia-Pacific time zone and the other meeting is targeted to organizations in Africa, the Americas, and Europe. If you are employed by a public or private research funder and interested in joining the Funder CoP, please find more information here.

Funding organizations play a key role in setting the tone for evaluation standards and practices. In recent years, an increasing number of funders have shifted their evaluation practices away from an outsized focus on quantitative metrics (e.g., H-Index, journal impact factors, etc.) as proxy measures of quality and towards more holistic means of evaluating applicants. At one of DORA’s March Funder Community of Practice (CoP) meetings, we heard how the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) has implemented narrative style CVs for choosing promising research and innovation talent. At the second March Funder CoP meeting, we held a discussion with Alex Holcombe, co-creator of the Tenzing tool, about how the movement to acknowledge authors for the broad range of roles they play to contribute to a research project could also be applied to help funders in decision making processes.

During the first meeting, we heard from Hilary Noone, Tripti Rana Magar, and Hilary Marshall who discussed the implementation of narrative style CVs at funding organizations in the UK including the Cancer Research UK and National Institute of Health Research (NIHR). “Traditional” CVs can overlook the broad range of a researcher’s achievements and scholarly work, such as contributions to team science, mentorship, and “non-traditional” research outputs. Magar said that the concept of narrative CVs emerged around 2014 from the Nuffield Council on Bioethics with the goal of better recognizing and understanding the holistic contributions of researchers. In 2017, the Royal Society co-created the ‘Royal Society’s the Résumé for Researchers’ (R4R). In 2021, a more flexible version of the R4R was released: the Résumé for Research and Innovation (R4RI), which has been implemented by several major funders in the UK. Magar highlighted that the R4RI CV reduces emphasis on metrics and focuses on the quality of the contribution, provides space for applicants to list their full range of activities, and reduces bureaucracy by encouraging the adoption of a single framework.                   

The Joint Funders Group (JFG) are 54 funders (both UK-based and international) that support the wider adoption of R4RI-like Narrative CVs. The speakers also mentioned the Alternative Uses Group (AUG), another group hosted by UKRI that complements the efforts of the JFG by co-creating resources for recruitment, promotions, professional accreditation with the support of funders and universities. Both groups work together to accelerate cultural change and implement the R4RI-like Narrative CV. Additionally, resources relating to the R4RI-like CV are freely available in the Résumé Resources library, which includes several CV templates, training packages, starter guides for reviewers and applicants, and guidance on promotion practices.          

The speakers closed their presentation by introducing the Shared Evaluation Framework, a resource that the JFG and AUG have developed to support adoption of the R4RI-like CV. In addition to creating the Framework, UKRI is also developing an Evidence Platform that allows users of the R4RI-like CV to anonymously upload and share data relating to the adoption of the R4RI-like CV. The Evidence Platform will help the funders and academic institutions monitor the adoption, impact, and results of using the R4RI-like CV format. The JFG and AUG are also developing training packages for applicants, reviewers and staff, and are working with professional bodies to see if they could offer complementary modules on specific areas/ themes. If anyone is interested in testing the training packages, making recommendations, or volunteering to be part of the professional bodies workshop, please contact culture@ukri.org.

During the second meeting, Alex Holcombe from University of Sydney presented tenzing, a free and open-source tool created to support the adoption of Contributor Roles Taxonomy (CRediT). CRediT was introduced in 2012 to more accurately and thoroughly assign credit to authors for the specific roles they played on a particular research project. The CRediT system has been adopted by eLife, The BMJ, and MDPI. It offers a means to recognize scholarly contributions with greater granularity.

The landscape of research is expanding and demands a wide range of diverse technical inputs and ideas. Given this, there is also a need for more granular methods to recognize contributions or “who did what” on a particular project. Increased granularity in the recognition of author contributions can provide better insight into an author’s expertise and provide a mechanism to recognize and reward a broader range of types of contributions (e.g., insight from non-academic experts). On the call, we discussed how use of CRediT could be implemented by research funders to better recognize and reward different contributions in grant applications and awards, especially given that Wellcome was one of the founding organizations that created CRediT. Holcombe suggested that use of CRediT could be a means to provide funders an easier way to assess whether a proposed research project is within the umbrella of a researcher’s skillset or not.

Tenzing was launched in 2020 to help researchers to record their roles in a project from the start using the CRediT system. It is particularly helpful at the time of manuscript submission to a journal, as a researcher might face certain obstacles (such as author labor) during the process of accumulating information about every author that was engaged in the project from the beginning. However, there is no one-size-fit-all approach to all problems. Although the application of these tools seems clear for researchers and publishers, there is still much to learn about how CRediT could be implemented by funders directly.

During both meetings, the speakers discussed how different organizations are on their way to implement culture change, improving the recognition of the wide variety of different outcomes and outputs generated by researchers.

Queen Saikia is DORA’s Policy Associate

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