Mixed messages: researchers' perceptions of assessment affects their behaviour
A new report shows how researchers are concerned by what they perceive as mixed messages about the channels they should use to communicate their research ﬁndings.
News release 17 September 2009
The report by the RIN and JISC highlights the need for more consistent and effective guidance from funders and higher educational institutions.
If they wish to encourage researchers to disseminate their work through a variety of channels as well as in high-status journals, they must give stronger and more positive messages about how those channels will be valued when it comes to assessing researchers’ performance they must give stronger and more positive messages about how those channels will be valued when it comes to assessing researchers? performance.
The rise in investment in research over the last ten years has been accompanied by an increasing emphasis on measuring, assessing and evaluating research, its outputs and impact. Commissioned by the RIN in conjunction with JISC, this report investigates how researchers’ perceptions of how they are being assessed affects their decisions on when, where and how to publish and disseminate their ﬁndings. It demonstrates the signiﬁcant variations between researchers in different disciplines not only in the dissemination channels they use, but also in their patterns of collaboration (and how they acknowledge the contributions that members of a team have made), and in how they decide cite the work of others.
All these patterns of behaviour are changing, in part as a result of technological developments. And there are signs that the citation practices, for example, of younger researchers are different from those of their more senior colleagues. But the readiness with which outputs in the form of scholarly journal articles can be assessed and measured has underpinned their increasing dominance over all other forms of publication and dissemination. Researchers’ perceptions and understanding of the messages they receive from funders and from universities may often be mistaken, but they inﬂuence what researchers publish and how, and they give rise to real concerns. Many researchers see a damaging tension between their desire to communicate via channels which enable them to reach and inﬂuence their intended audiences - often beyond academia - as rapidly as possible, and the pressures to publish in high-status journals. Changes in assessment procedures, whether via the Research Excellence Framework (REF) or from other sources, will change researchers’ behaviour further. Many are already considering citing their colleagues? work more often.
The report provides important evidence for funders and policy makers, as well as for the research community, in the continuing consultations about the future mechanisms for assessing research performance. It also shows that it is necessary for this to be an ongoing process to keep monitoring the changes in technology and research practices. It is important that changes in those mechanisms are based on a detailed understanding of both the behaviours and the motivations of researchers across the full range of disciplines and subjects.
A short podcast interviewing Michael Jubb, Director of the RIN and Neil Jacobs, Programme Manager Information Environment at JISC is also available at www.jisc.ac.uk/news/stories/2009/09/podcast88communicatingknowledge.aspx
Sarah Gentleman, Communications Ofﬁcer, Research Information Network
Tel 020 7412 7241, email email@example.com
Rebecca O’Brien, Press and PR Manager, JISC
Tel 0117 331 0657 Mobile 07879 880 198, email firstname.lastname@example.org
Notes for editor
- This report is the result of work undertaken by LISU and the Department of Information Science, Loughborough University; and CERLIM, Manchester Metropolitan University.
- The Research Information Network was set up in 2005 by the four UK higher education funding bodies, the seven research councils and the three national libraries. Our role is to enhance and broaden understanding of the information resources and services available to researchers, and how they use them; and to promote the innovation and development of effective policies and strategies for the beneﬁt of the UK research community.
- JISC leads the innovative use of digital technologies for UK colleges and universities, helping to maintain the UK?s position as a leader in education and research. JISC manages and funds more than 200 projects within 14 programmes and supports 49 services that provide expertise, advice, guidance and resources to address the needs of all users in higher and further education. The projects, programmes and services support and enhance teaching, learning and research across a range of disciplines. www.jisc.ac.uk.
Contacts for comment:
- Neil Jacobs, Programme Manager, JISC, tel 0117 331 0772
- Michael Jubb, Director, RIN, tel 020 7412 7285
- Graeme Rosenberg, REF Pilot Manager HEFCE, tel 01179 317 487