Research assessment: The continuing debate for balance

Springer Nature Group
By: Alison Mitchell, Tue May 19 2020

As an industry we are very good at coming up with a list of challenges faced by today’s research community – such as how best to assess research quality, value and importance given these rightly mean different things to different people.   However, the biggest challenge does not lie in identifying the issues, but in taking action to address them – a responsibility shared by all stakeholders, including publishers (Steven Inchcoombe wrote an interesting  blog on one aspect, Impact Factors, here) . 

Springer Nature has long been a part of the debate on the role of metrics in research assessment, putting forward the idea that whilst journal-level metrics can have some use as a way of assessing the impact of a journal, they are not an appropriate means of assessing individual pieces of research nor the researchers who produced them. In fact Nature Research has been an advocate and promoter of alternative metrics since the 1990’s having published many editorials and articles on the subject.  As such today’s announcement that Springer Nature will be the largest research publisher to commit its owned journal portfolio and relevant book content to the DORA principles (following our imprints Nature Research, Springer Open and BMC who became signatories in 2017), as well as working with our society owned journals to support their compliance with DORA, is something we are very excited about. We see it very much as an extension and formalisation of our publishing ethos to support a balanced, sustainable and fair approach to using responsible metrics, responsible author practices and enabling wider author and researcher choice when coming to the critical decision of where and with whom to publish.

We have seen our industry take a wider approach to research evaluation to support a healthier and more productive scholarly enterprise and community – DORA along with the Leiden Manifesto and the UK report ‘The Metric Tide’ being  such examples. By bringing together a somewhat fragmented system of stakeholders including research institutions, publishers, learned societies, and funding agencies, these initiatives have helped to change the tenor of discussions around researcher assessment, paving the way for significant strides to be made in the discussions around metrics. But saying this is nothing new. What remains key,  is for us as a community to continue to take a collaborative approach and look at concrete ways to address this, so that  effective change can take place.

For us as a community  to make any meaningful change in how research is viewed, quantified and assessed – relies on us as publishers taking an open approach to every aspect of our work. Our signing of DORA sits for us within a larger context and speaks directly to the need and call for transparency, openness and the sustainability of a wider, modern, research culture.

Springer Nature has – and continues to – drive a culture of openness. Beyond our role as the world’s most comprehensive Open Access publisher, we are focused on:

  • The need to support and enable collaborative, open and sustainable research behaviour and responsible author practice through, for example our preprint services and support of transparent peer review  practice
  • To closely address the conditions that underpin research and work to ensure, we as publishers and an industry stay connected to the scholarly ecosystem
  • To provide services and tools that continue to meet the changing needs and requirements of researchers
  • To continue to work with the scholarly community to safeguard and assure the trustworthiness of research. See our policy around reproducibility as one example.

Alongside this, we are proud to be signatories and partners with organisations and policies that support  a transparent and open approach to research and research evaluation such as Transparency in the Process of Science  (TOP guidelines), New Frontiers of peer review consortium (PEERE), Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE), Open Researcher and Contributor ID (ORCID), and now of course the Declaration of Research Assessment (DORA). 

I am very proud of what we do at Springer Nature and how we do it. We are making strides in addressing and offering a wider and richer set of metrics across our journal and book portfolios and we continue to explore ways in which to best support our scholarly community both in terms of tools, services or access as we navigate the way to an even more transparent and sustainable research framework. However, whilst we as individual publishers can address our own processes, in order for any real concrete change to take place – as Steven has said before me – as a community , we have to look at concrete ways in which to make changes. So how can we work together to create open metrics that better meet academic needs? How can we develop or improve current systems to ensure that they are used properly and responsibly within scholarly communication? Only once we have agreed principles, collectively, can we start to build the foundation for sustainable, open and effective research as we go forwards.

You can find more information regarding Springer Nature and DORA here.


Alison Mitchell

Author: Alison Mitchell

Managing Director, Journals at Springer Nature

Alison Mitchell has been in the publishing industry for almost 20 years, having joined what was then Macmillan Magazines in 1996, fresh from a PhD, working as a News & Views Editor on Nature. After three years with Nature (during which it became part of NPG) she became involved with Nature Reviews and was the launch editor of Nature Reviews Molecular Cell Biology.

In 2004 Mitchell took over NPG's academic and society publishing portfolio. In 2014, with the creation of Macmillan Science & Scholarly, she became editorially responsible for all of the NPG journals research content as well as the monographs, Pivots, journals and reference products published by Palgrave Macmillan. 
 

Previous posts

Research assessment: The continuing debate for balance

Alison Mitchell discusses metrics and research following Springer Nature's signing of DORA.

Springer Nature Group
19 May 2020
Laying the foundations for open access: from ambitious beginnings to the publishing mainstream

From ambitious beginnings to the publishing mainstream - BMC on 20 years of OA 

Springer Nature Group
13 May 2020
Opening doors to discovery of content and data with AI

Value in publishing

Henning Schoenenberger and Markus Kaindl explain why partnerships are an essential part of using technology to make content and data discoverable.

A
Advancing Discoveries
16 Apr 2020
Could better monitoring and tracking of funding accelerate the transition to open access?

Advancing discovery

London | 06 April 2020

White paper explores the fragmented and varied funding currently available for APCs.

Springer Nature Group
06 Apr 2020
Coronavirus pandemic: Nature’s pledge

Advancing discovery

London | 27th March 2020

Nature's pledge in the fight against COVID-19

Springer Nature Group
26 Mar 2020
Accelerating progress in support of the sustainable development goals

Advancing discovery

London | 26th March 2020

Springer Nature's third Responsible Business Report.

Springer Nature Group
26 Mar 2020
A message from Frank Vrancken Peeters

Advancing discovery

London | 19th March 2020

Springer Nature's CEO in response to the COVID-19 crisis

Springer Nature Group
19 Mar 2020
Of Mythical Beasts and Zero-Embargo Mandates

Advancing discovery

Dean Sanderson discusses Springer Nature's position on the rumored Executive Order.

O
Openaccess
28 Feb 2020
What is needed to drive the OA transition in 2020?

Advancing discovery

Susie Winter considers what needs to happen in 2020 to make the OA transition a reality.

R
Research Publishing
23 Jan 2020
Alternative conditions needed for cOAlition S’s Transformative Journal proposal to succeed

Springer Nature's response to latest consultation published by cOAlition S

R
Research Publishing
17 Dec 2019
Announcing a new diversity commitment for Springer Nature’s research publishing

Taking an active role in accelerating progress on equality, diversity & inclusion.

R
Research Publishing
11 Dec 2019
 Making Open Data a central part of Open Research:  Steps publishers can and should take today

Open data

Attitudes to data sharing are changing, but clear gaps in how researchers are being supported remain. What steps can publishers take today? Grace Baynes explores.

R
Research Publishing
11 Nov 2019
Why being 'open' matters

Advancing discovery

Why does open access matter? What is it enabling us as a community to do? How does it support the wider goal of open research? Steven Inchcoombe reflects.

R
Research Publishing
24 Oct 2019
Think global, act global

This Global Goals Week we at Springer Nature are asking ourselves what we can do to help bring people together and to join the dots between research and the solutions we need to build a better, more sustainable world.

Springer Nature Group
26 Sep 2019
Celebrating the Chinese contribution to the world’s sustainable development research

With the fastest-growing scientific and scholarly research, China’s importance for sustainable development is increasingly clear.

R
Research Publishing
28 Aug 2019
Transformative deals substantially aid the transition to OA. Let’s give them the time they need to do so.

Last month, Springer Nature agreed a new transformative ‘read and publish’ deal with the Norwegian library consortium, Unit.  This, coupled with renewals of existing deals in the UK (Jisc), Sweden (Bibsam) and Qatar, takes the number of such deals we have into double figures, the most of any publisher.  These deals enable researchers in these ten countries to publish open access in over 1900 Springer journals as well as read the research of others across this portfolio.

O
Openaccess
02 Aug 2019
The future of open access books

Open access book publishing has been growing in recent years. The Directory of Open Access Books (DOAB) lists 2,099 open access books published in 2018, an increase of 38% from 2017. Funders are also starting to engage with open access for books: a small number of European funders now mandate open access for books and provide financial support for open access book publication. COAlition S has also indicated that they support transitioning monographs to open access, and will provide guidance by the end of 2021.

O
Openaccess
18 Jun 2019
Maximising the benefits of early sharing

At Springer Nature making great research available as quickly as possible is a central part of our commitment to the research community. 

Springer Nature Group
23 May 2019
A faster path to an open future

At Springer Nature we want to find the fastest and most effective route to immediate open access (OA) for all primary research.

Springer Nature Group
08 May 2019
A postcard from Davos: what role for research at this gathering of global opinion leaders?

My first impressions of Davos? Dazzling, overwhelming, unexpected, thought-provoking, incredibly busy and much, much more…

R
Research Publishing
04 Apr 2019
Businesses must play a role in sustainable development

Today Springer Nature launches its Responsible Business report for 2018.

Springer Nature Group
27 Mar 2019
Setting targets at Springer Nature to help create a better balance

The theme of this year’s IWD couldn’t be more relevant to us. Last month, Springer Nature’s management board announced to our 13,000 colleagues that we will set a target to improve gender representation in our leadership group.

Springer Nature Group
07 Mar 2019
Congratulations to Karen Keskulla Uhlenbeck

It’s a great pleasure for us at Springer Nature to congratulate Karen Keskulla Uhlenbeck for the award of this year’s Abel Prize.

Springer Nature Group
03 Mar 2019
Without you, we are nothing: why community engagement is at the core of everything we do

Sometimes there is great value in stating the obvious; the scholarly publishing industry would not exist without a broad international community of researchers, students, librarians, funders, and commercial partners.

R
Research Publishing
06 Mar 2019
How Can We Accelerate Data Sharing?

What steps can publishers, funders and institutions take to make data sharing worth a researcher’s time and energy, and accelerate progress? 

R
Research Publishing
10 Mar 2019
Connecting curious minds to advance learning and discovery

Science

Springer Nature will stay curious, connect ideas, question how things are done, explore new ways to deliver for our communities and then make the changes that matter.

R
Research Publishing
20 Feb 2019
Need to focus on demand as well as supply: making Plan S work for all

Steven Inchcoombe discusses Springer Nature's submission to the cOAlition of participants to make Plan S work for all.

R
Research Publishing
11 Feb 2019
The quest for more value: A Long Read

Research News

Daniel Ropers shares some of his early observations about the academic publishing industry.

R
Research Publishing
01 Nov 2018
Publication misconduct: changing the conversation

Suzanne Farley discusses how to increase prevention and detection of research and publication misconduct. 

R
Research Publishing
04 Nov 2018
Lessons learned from open peer review: a publisher’s perspective

Research News

Rachel Burley discusses BMC's history in openness and transparency and what has been learnt.

R
Research Publishing
23 Dec 2017
Accelerating open access: what is missing from Plan S

Research News

The transition to open access needs to be sustainable for the whole research community.

R
Research Publishing
23 Dec 2017
Finding the science in social media

Research News

At Springer Nature we believe that social media is a vital tool for everyone involved in the academic research and publishing process. 

R
Research Publishing
23 Dec 2017
Hybrid journals can advance the move towards full open access

Blogs

Hybrid journals play an important role in the transition to open access.

R
Research Publishing
01 Aug 2018
Science benefits from diversity – and as publishers we have a role to play

As a progressive publisher, we have a responsibility to support diversity and inclusion.

R
Research Publishing
17 Jul 2018
What next for Impact Factors?

Why we need to work together to create metrics that better meet the needs of the research community.

R
Research Publishing
02 Jul 2018
Can research change the world?

Springer Nature believes that great multidisciplinary research needs to be informing global discussions.  

R
Research Publishing
28 Jun 2018
We need to do more to celebrate and support women in engineering

Women’s achievements in STEM fields need to be harnessed to raise awareness, create role models and foster a more inclusive culture. 

R
Research Publishing
21 Jun 2018
Future of the book all down to definition

Advancing discovery

The speed of recent change in the publishing industry in the past 10 years poses the question, what will book publishing look like in the future?

R
Research Publishing