A Decision Support System for Public Research Organizations Participating in National Research Assessment Exercises

Giovanni Abramo, Ciriaco Andrea D'Angelo

We are witnessing a rapid trend towards the adoption of exercises for evaluation of national research systems, generally based on the peer review approach. They respond to two main needs: stimulating higher efficiency in research activities by public laboratories, and realizing better allocative efficiency in government funding of such institutions. However the peer review approach is typified by several limitations that raise doubts for the achievement of the ultimate objectives. In particular, subjectivity of judgment, which occurs during the step of selecting research outputs to be submitted for the evaluations, risks heavily distorting both the final ratings of the organizations evaluated and the ultimate funding they receive. These distortions become ever more relevant if the evaluation is limited to small samples of the scientific production of the research institutions. The objective of the current study is to propose a quantitative methodology based on bibliometric data that would provide a reliable support for the process of selecting the best products of a laboratory, and thus limit distortions. Benefits are twofold: single research institutions can maximize the probability of receiving a fair evaluation coherent with the real quality of their research. At the same time, broader adoptions of this approach could also provide strong advantages at the macroeconomic level, since it guarantees financial allocations based on the real value of the institutions under evaluation. In this study, the proposed methodology has been applied to the hard science sectors of the Italian university research system for the period 2004-2006.

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