San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment (DORA)

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The San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment (DORA) is a global initiative to support the development and promotion of best practices in the assessment of scholarly research. It aims to address the negative consequences of unintended overuse of journal publication as a primary indicator of quality of research output.

In November 2019, SSHRC, along with the four other major Canadian federal research funders (the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, the Canada Foundation for Innovation, and Genome Canada), signed on to DORA. In so doing, SSHRC joined research leaders around the world who are working to strengthen research excellence by ensuring robust, equitable and impactful measures for research assessment, and reaffirmed its commitment to excellence in research evaluation and the importance of knowledge mobilization.

Social sciences and humanities and interdisciplinary research assessment

SSHRC acknowledges that the quality and impact of research cannot be measured through journal publications alone. This is especially true in social sciences and humanities and interdisciplinary research, where research results and outcomes are multifaceted and can reflect multiple types of knowledge and ways of knowing.

High-quality research outcomes are achieved in many ways, including, but not limited to:

  • publishing research articles
  • reporting new knowledge (such as presenting at conferences and other venues)
  • sharing data
  • contributing to policy decisions and improvements in practice
  • producing highly trained personnel
  • working in partnership with various sectors of society

The scientific content of a paper is always more important than publication metrics or the identity of the journal in which it was published. This is why SSHRC, in its merit review processes, encourages research assessment that considers the value and impact of all research outputs, in addition to research publications, as well as influence on policy and practice.

SSHRC alignment with DORA principles

DORA principles are reflected in those guiding SSHRC’s overall approaches to research assessment. SSHRC has often been a pioneer in this area, acting either solo or as a partner or leader in tri-agency initiatives, including:

SSHRC’s alignment with DORA principles is evident in its Manual for Adjudication Committee Members, which encourages committee members to consider a variety of research contributions in making their assessments, including traditional academic publications, non-refereed and forthcoming contributions, creative outputs and other relevant services and experience.

SSHRC’s Guidelines for the Merit Review of Indigenous Research, developed prior to signing on to DORA, also show early leadership in the acknowledgement of the importance of a variety of types of research outputs.

Other early examples of alignment with DORA principles include SSHRC’s history of support for research-creation across its funding opportunities and its promotion of knowledge mobilization in various forms, as outlined in the SSHRC Guidelines for Effective Knowledge Mobilization.  

SSHRC’s Guidelines for Effective Research Training, also, have anticipated the diverse types of training that researchers require in order to develop a broad understanding of the ways that research, and its varied outputs, can enhance our understanding of modern social, cultural, technological, environmental, economic, political and wellness issues.

Tri-agency programs and multidisciplinary/multisectoral research assessment

In addition to supporting research and research training in the social sciences and humanities in Canada, SSHRC houses the Tri-agency Institutional Programs Secretariat (TIPS). TIPS manages seven programs on behalf of the three federal research funding agencies (SSHRC, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada) that support research and researchers across all disciplines. Six of these programs are merit reviewed.

TIPS programs rely on multidisciplinary and multisectoral committees for merit review. Assessment guides help review committee members evaluate proposals in various disciplines and those with an interdisciplinary approach to research. In alignment with DORA principles, the assessment tools and guidelines for TIPS programs reflect the understanding that the nature of valuable research outcomes varies between disciplines.

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