Exploring the merits of research performance measures that comply with the San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment and strategies to overcome barriers of adoption: qualitative interviews with administrators and researchers

Health Res Policy Syst. 2023 Jun 5;21(1):43. doi: 10.1186/s12961-023-01001-w.


Background: In prior research, we identified and prioritized ten measures to assess research performance that comply with the San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment, a principle adopted worldwide that discourages metrics-based assessment. Given the shift away from assessment based on Journal Impact Factor, we explored potential barriers to implementing and adopting the prioritized measures.

Methods: We identified administrators and researchers across six research institutes, conducted telephone interviews with consenting participants, and used qualitative description and inductive content analysis to derive themes.

Results: We interviewed 18 participants: 6 administrators (research institute business managers and directors) and 12 researchers (7 on appointment committees) who varied by career stage (2 early, 5 mid, 5 late). Participants appreciated that the measures were similar to those currently in use, comprehensive, relevant across disciplines, and generated using a rigorous process. They also said the reporting template was easy to understand and use. In contrast, a few administrators thought the measures were not relevant across disciplines. A few participants said it would be time-consuming and difficult to prepare narratives when reporting the measures, and several thought that it would be difficult to objectively evaluate researchers from a different discipline without considerable effort to read their work. Strategies viewed as necessary to overcome barriers and support implementation of the measures included high-level endorsement of the measures, an official launch accompanied by a multi-pronged communication strategy, training for both researchers and evaluators, administrative support or automated reporting for researchers, guidance for evaluators, and sharing of approaches across research institutes.

Conclusions: While participants identified many strengths of the measures, they also identified a few limitations and offered corresponding strategies to address the barriers that we will apply at our organization. Ongoing work is needed to develop a framework to help evaluators translate the measures into an overall assessment. Given little prior research that identified research assessment measures and strategies to support adoption of those measures, this research may be of interest to other organizations that assess the quality and impact of research.

Keywords: Academic review; Acceptance; Barriers; Criteria; Implementation; Indicators; Performance appraisal; Qualitative interviews; Research personnel; San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment.