Higher education systems have been promoting internationally the relevance of research over the past decades. Putting research achievements center stage serves a range of purposes. First, research has a positive influence on national development. Research is in fact considered to be the “engine of growth” of countries: the generation of ideas through theoretical and empirical studies provides impetus to the provision of products and services for the collective. It is noteworthy that research as the foundation of economic and social advancements applies to heterogeneous fields, although different outcomes can be expected of them. Research in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields, also known as STEM, can prompt the introduction of new solutions able to better human life from a practical point of view, such as new transportation arrangements, new information and communication technolo- gies, or new materials. In parallel, research in medicine can convey new treatments and drugs to handle pathologies and improve early detection and cure of diseases. Concerning social sciences and humanities, their contributions are basically aimed at comprehending social dynamics and reducing the potential for conflict. Second, attention for research performance can increase transparency and accountability of university functioning, in line with the values undergirding New Public Management. New Public Management can be interpreted as the application of business concepts and practices to the handling of shared resources. Specifically, performance measurement is a core practice of New Public Management that, when implemented in universities, primarily focuses on research assessment. Research outcomes can in fact be the object of appraisal, although their evaluation is not straightforward, as will be detailed below; consequently, performance-based measurement systems have been designed and are currently used in most higher education systems to stream- line and distribute resources at the organizational level. Third and relatedly, since the 1970s, a series of widespread economic crises have occurred that have required governments to cut on costs and raise overall efficiencies. Placing emphasis on research performance allows university management to realize what activities are conducive to satisfactory outcomes and deserve allocation of a larger set of resources and what, conversely, can be ruled out or downsized (Martin 2011). To this goal, many countries run regularly national evaluation exercises, such as the British Research Evaluation Framework (REF) and the Italian Valutazione della Qualità della Ricerca, to realize what performance different universities, schools, and departments have attained in a given time length. In particular, the British evaluation pro- cess has acted as a reference for the setup of various assessment exercises (Rebora and Turri 2013). The REF entails a structured process in which after the previous evaluation, results are published, with the definition of the initial deci- sion of the funding bodies, and leads to the definition of submission criteria and guidelines. The REF is based on a review process across all disciplines conducted by expert panels who define the quality profile of each submission. The REF adopts a system of four-starred quality levels which have become popular: research outputs are classified according to their “originality, significance, and rigor” from world-leading quality (four stars) to quality recognized nationally (one star). Research evaluation can be centralized, as is the case with the above examples, or be decentralized at the single institutional level, as happens with the United States’ universities.

Research Performance and the Development of Higher Education Systems

Giacomo Carli;Maria Rita Tagliaventi
2020

Abstract

Higher education systems have been promoting internationally the relevance of research over the past decades. Putting research achievements center stage serves a range of purposes. First, research has a positive influence on national development. Research is in fact considered to be the “engine of growth” of countries: the generation of ideas through theoretical and empirical studies provides impetus to the provision of products and services for the collective. It is noteworthy that research as the foundation of economic and social advancements applies to heterogeneous fields, although different outcomes can be expected of them. Research in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields, also known as STEM, can prompt the introduction of new solutions able to better human life from a practical point of view, such as new transportation arrangements, new information and communication technolo- gies, or new materials. In parallel, research in medicine can convey new treatments and drugs to handle pathologies and improve early detection and cure of diseases. Concerning social sciences and humanities, their contributions are basically aimed at comprehending social dynamics and reducing the potential for conflict. Second, attention for research performance can increase transparency and accountability of university functioning, in line with the values undergirding New Public Management. New Public Management can be interpreted as the application of business concepts and practices to the handling of shared resources. Specifically, performance measurement is a core practice of New Public Management that, when implemented in universities, primarily focuses on research assessment. Research outcomes can in fact be the object of appraisal, although their evaluation is not straightforward, as will be detailed below; consequently, performance-based measurement systems have been designed and are currently used in most higher education systems to stream- line and distribute resources at the organizational level. Third and relatedly, since the 1970s, a series of widespread economic crises have occurred that have required governments to cut on costs and raise overall efficiencies. Placing emphasis on research performance allows university management to realize what activities are conducive to satisfactory outcomes and deserve allocation of a larger set of resources and what, conversely, can be ruled out or downsized (Martin 2011). To this goal, many countries run regularly national evaluation exercises, such as the British Research Evaluation Framework (REF) and the Italian Valutazione della Qualità della Ricerca, to realize what performance different universities, schools, and departments have attained in a given time length. In particular, the British evaluation pro- cess has acted as a reference for the setup of various assessment exercises (Rebora and Turri 2013). The REF entails a structured process in which after the previous evaluation, results are published, with the definition of the initial deci- sion of the funding bodies, and leads to the definition of submission criteria and guidelines. The REF is based on a review process across all disciplines conducted by expert panels who define the quality profile of each submission. The REF adopts a system of four-starred quality levels which have become popular: research outputs are classified according to their “originality, significance, and rigor” from world-leading quality (four stars) to quality recognized nationally (one star). Research evaluation can be centralized, as is the case with the above examples, or be decentralized at the single institutional level, as happens with the United States’ universities.
2020
Global Encyclopedia of Public Administration, Public Policy, and Governance
1
5
Giacomo Carli; Maria Rita Tagliaventi
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/11585/710917
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