24 juni 2020
Peter van den Besselaar, Ulf Sandström Evaluation of research uses peer review and bibliometrics, and the debate about their balance in research evaluation continues. Both approaches have supporters, and both approaches are criticized. In this paper, we describe an interesting case in which the use of bibliometrics in a panel-based evaluation of a mid-sized university was systematically tried out. The case suggests a useful way in which bibliometric indicators can be used to inform and improve peer review and panel-based evaluation. We call this ‘disciplined peer review’, and disciplined is used here in a constructive way: Bibliometrically disciplined peer review is more likely to avoid the subjectivity that often influences the outcomes of the peer and panel review-based evaluation.
6 september 2019
Peter van den Besselaar, Ulf Sandström, Charlie Mom As the various disciplines have different forms of social and intellectual organization (Whitley 2000), scholars in
various fields may depend less on their peers, and more on other audiences for recognition and funding. Following
Merton (1973) we distinguish between performance and reputation for building up recognition. We show that
there are indeed differences between the disciplines: in life sciences and social sciences, the reputation related
indicators are dominant in predicting the score that grants applicants get from the panel, whereas in the natural
sciences, the performance-related indicators dominate the panel scores. Furthermore, when comparing within the
life sciences the grantees with the best performing non-grantees, we show that the former score higher on the
reputation indicators and the second score better on the performance variables, supporting the findings that in life
sciences one probably gain recognition over reputation more than over individual performance. We suggest that
this may not be optimal for the growth of knowledge.
2 september 2019
Erik Sandström, Ulf Sandström, Peter van den Besselaar Any type of scientific study or evaluation of research quality and impact enters into two types of problems if there is more than one topic area involved in the study: (1) How to account for differences in (paper) production? (2) How to account for differences in citation impact, i.e. influence over subsequent literature? This paper aims to show that these questions can be answered with the help of two methods; the Field Adjusted Production (FAP) indicator and a percentile indicator which is designed to include the FAP. Consequently, they are used in combination in order to express a score that includes both paper production an impact into one figure. Thereby is constructed a score that can be used for ranking of universities, departments, individuals. The paper first explains the background of the method, and then how to calculate the indicators belonging to the P-Model. Then the paper indicates some examples and will discuss methods for validation of the proposed indicator.
8 augusti 2019
Peter van den Besselaar, Ulf Sandström It is often argued that the presence of stakeholders in review panels
may improve the selection of societal relevant research projects. In
this paper, we investigate whether the composition of panels indeed
matters. More precisely, when stakeholders are in the panel, does
that result in more positive evaluation of proposals of relevance to that
stakeholder? We investigate this for the gender issues domain, and show
that this is the case. When stakeholders are present, the relevant projects
obtain a more positive evaluation and consequently a higher score.
If these findings can be generalised, they are an important insight for the
creation of pathways to and conditions for impact.
27 mars 2019
Peter van den Besselaar, Ulf Sandström Bibliometric indicators are increasingly used to evaluate individual scientists–as is exemplified
by the popularity of the many other publication and citation-based indicators used in evaluation. These indicators, however, cover at best some of the quality dimensions relevant for assessing a researcher: productivity and impact. At the same time, research quality has more dimensions than productivity and impact alone. As current bibliometric indicators are not covering various important quality dimensions, we here contribute to developing better indicators for those quality dimensions not yet addressed. One of the quality dimensions lacking valid indicators is an individual researcher’s independence. We propose indicators to measure different aspects of independence: two assessing whether a researcher has
developed an own collaboration network and two others assessing the level of thematic independence. Taken together they form an independence indicator. We illustrate how these indicators distinguish between researchers that are equally productive and have a considerable impact. The independence indicator is a step forward in evaluating individual scholarly quality.
13 juli 2018
Peter van den Besselaar, Ulf Sandström Peer and panel review are the dominant forms of grant decision-making, despite its serious
weaknesses as shown by many studies. This paper contributes to the understanding of the
grant selection process through a linguistic analysis of the review reports. We reconstruct
in that way several aspects of the evaluation and selection process: what dimensions of the
proposal are discussed during the process and how, and what distinguishes between the
successful and non-successful applications? We combine the linguistic findings with
interviews with panel members and with bibliometric performance scores of applicants.
The former gives the context, and the latter helps to interpret the linguistic findings. The
analysis shows that the performance of the applicant and the content of the proposed study
are assessed with the same categories, suggesting that the panelists actually do not make a
difference between past performance and promising new research ideas. The analysis also
suggests that the panels focus on rejecting the applications by searching for weak points,
and not on finding the high-risk/high-gain groundbreaking ideas that may be in the proposal.
This may easily result in sub-optimal selections, in low predictive validity, and in
Keywords Peer review Panel review Research grants Decision-making Linguistics
LIWC European Research Council (ERC)
4 juli 2018
Ulf Sandström Många tar för givet att forskning med svagt genomslag är koncentrerad till vissa småskaliga universitet högskolor. Detta motiverar närmare undersökning eftersom det förhållandet att svensk forskning i väsentlig grad skulle förbättras om verksamheten flyttades från de regionala högskolorna till universiteten behöver i så fall beläggas med fakta. Om det är så att de stora universiteten dragit ifrån och gör bättre resultat än vad som framgick av en tidigare undersökning (Sandström 2015) borde detta kunna förklaras av att forskningsresurserna kanaliserats till dessa lärosäten. Men frågan är hur det egentligen ser ut? Har de stora dragit ifrån och har de små förlorat i samma mån?
20 juni 2018
Ulf Sandström This bibliometric evaluation of wildlife research, funded by the Wildlife
Management Fund through the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency
(SEPA) during 2003–2014, highlights how the international publications
have developed for the funded research leaders and co-applicants during the
period 2006 until 2014. The following questions have guided the evaluation:
1) Has the SEPA programme for wildlife research payed off in relation to
input of resources?
2) Has SEPA and its Wildlife Research Committee chosen the best available
researchers for the projects?
3) Does SEPA’s funded wildlife research represent a reasonable project portfolio
in an international perspective?
4) Does SEPA have a gender-wise equal distribution of research funds?
Nearly 95% of all resources have gone to sub-programmes devoted to large
carnivores, general biology and social science/humanities. Those areas that
have received most of the resources can therefore have dedicated researchers,
where most of their publications have focused on the game programme, the
other and the smaller areas more or less fall outside. Within the aforementioned
areas, game research has yielded good results.
The bibliometric evaluation suggests that the SEPA has a good exchange
of resources in terms of number of articles and expected citation response
from the larger research community. Particularly the programme for large
carnivores has proved to be an investment with good productivity and substantial
recognition from the international research community.
During the programme period, citation strength increases significantly,
from 40% to 60% of researchers have strong achievements, i.e. they are
included in the top 20% of Swedish researchers.
7 juni 2018
Koen Jonkers, Ulf Sandström, Peter van den Besselaar The Marie Sklodowska Curie Action (MSCA) fellowship scheme aims, as a part of the European
framework programmes, to promote scientific excellence, mobility and research collaboration in the
European Research Area. As most elements on the EU Framework Programmes, it also aims to
widen capacity development throughout the EU in Member States with different levels of scientific
development. This report analyses the mobility, publication and international co-publication
behaviour of a group of European researchers that have taken part in the Marie Sklodowska Curie
Action (MSCA) Fellowship schemes. It compares researchers that received their PhD from
organisations in two groups of countries before and after being granted the fellowship.
The first group of countries (from North-Western Europe: FPIC receives a relatively large share of
their research funding budget from the European Framework Programmes and a relatively low
share from the European Structural and Investment Funds. The second group of countries (from
South and Eastern European: ESIFIC) presents a lower Framework Programme funding intensity
but the Funding intensity of the European Structural and Investment Funds is higher. The funding
intensity levels associated with these broad programmes are taken as an indication of the level of
scientific development. It strongly correlates with the average impact of the publications made by
researchers in these countries. Also relevant to this analysis is that the first group of countries tend
to host more MSCA fellows than they send whereas the reverse holds for the second group group.
The analysis measures performance as the sum of the citation impact of a researchers publications.
Before the grant one observes a difference between the performance of applicants from South and
Eastern Europe (ESIFIC) on the one hand and those from North Western Europe (FPIC) on the
other. Over time the median performance gap disappears: there is convergence in the median
performance of researchers from the two country groups. However due to a larger number of
outliers (top performers) in North Western European countries there remains a difference in the
When comparing MSCA applicants with other grant schemes, one finds that the MSCA applicants
perform well before and after the grant - though as expected below the performance of researchers
funded by the highly selective ERC junior grant which tend to be more senior. The MSCA applicants
show a marked improvement after the grant in comparison to before. This in contrast to a similar
national individual fellowship in an EU MS.
Post grant performance is mainly correlated to pre-grant performance. One does not find a
significant correlation with the quality of the research environment (as proxied by citation impact of
the host organisation). This is surprising because the quality of the host environment is an explicit
Post grant international collaboration behaviour is mainly correlated to pre-grant international
collaboration: it appears as if the well connected remain well connected also after being funded.
What we did find was that after the grant a considerable share of the increase in co-authored high
impact papers are co-published with researchers from North Western Europe: this suggests the
MSCA mobility experience leads to productive research links.
The potential for robust evaluations, either in the form of counterfactual analyses or randomised
controlled experiments should be taken into account at the planning and implementation phase of
the Framework Programmes.
26 maj 2018
Ulf Sandström, Peter van den Besselaar Understanding the quality of science systems requires international comparative studies,
which are difficult because of the lack of comparable data especially about inputs in research.
In this study, we deploy an approach based on reasonable comparative data that focus on
change instead of on levels of inputs and outputs, as this approach to a large extent eliminates
the problem of measurement differences between countries. Using input-data related to
output data (top publications in Web of Science) we first show which national science
systems are more efficient (where performance increase is stronger than expected change in
funding) and systems which are less efficient. We then discuss our findings using popular
explanations of performance differences: differences in the level of competition, differences
in the level of university autonomy, and differences in the level of academic freedom.
Interestingly, the available data do not support the common explanations. Good functioning
systems are characterized by a well-developed ex post evaluation system combined with
considerably high institutional funding and low university autonomy (meaning a high
autonomy of professionals). On the other hand, the less efficient systems have a strong ex
ante control, either through a high level of so-called competitive project funding, or through
strong power of the university management.