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Dora initiative leader hopes ERC commitment will inspire others


Prominence of top EU funder could trigger others to change their assessment, declaration coordinator hopes

A leader of the San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment, through which institutions pledge to consider broad, clear and balanced metrics when judging researchers and their work, has said she hopes other institutions will follow the example of the EU’s top research funder and sign up to the principles.

The European Research Council announced on 14 July that it had signed the declaration known as Dora. It said it was “convinced” that implementation of the declaration’s principles “is the key to an equitable transition to open science”—the practice of opening up research methods and outputs for scrutiny and reuse.

Anna Hatch, the Dora programme director, told Research Professional News she was “so excited” that the ERC had signed.

“When institutions with the reach and the scale [of] ERC take action, they catalyse this change elsewhere,” she said. “It would be my hope that other organisations see the ERC’s commitment to the principles in the declaration and be inspired to take action.”

ERC assessment tweaks

Among their commitments, Dora signatories pledge not to use journal impact factors—average citations per article—in their assessments, as the metric is not specific to individual articles, varies between fields and has other shortcomings. The ERC has tweaked its assessment rules since signing, including adding explicit instructions that applicants must not include journal impact factors alongside their list of the publications they have authored.

Applicants will also be asked to include a “short narrative” describing the scientific importance of their outputs. This was allowed before but has now been made more explicit, the funder told Research Professional News, adding that it has also broadened the types of scientific achievements that can be included as part of applicants’ track record.

Dora gaining traction

Since its birth in San Francisco in 2012, more than 2,250 organisations have signed Dora, of which 125 made the commitment between the start of 2021 and mid-July.

In recent years, those behind the declaration have grown it from a website collecting signatures to what Hatch calls a “community of practice”. Public and private research funders are invited to attend closed quarterly meetings where they can discuss the thorniest issues in research assessment and share advice.