The University of Cambridge and Cambridge University Press announced on 8 July 2019 that they have signed up to the San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment (DORA), a set of recommendations agreed in 2012 that seek to ensure that the quality and impact of research outputs are 'measured accurately and evaluated wisely'.

By signing up to DORA, we want to demonstrate to our researchers that we value the quality and content of their research regardless of how and where it is published

Chris Abell

DORA’s recommendations call for institutions not to use journal-based metrics, such as Journal Impact Factors, as a surrogate measure of the quality of individual research articles when assessing researchers’ contributions in hiring, promotion, or funding decisions. It encourages universities, researchers and others to assess research on its own merits rather than on the basis of the journal in which the research was published and highlights the need to capitalise on the opportunities provided by online publication.

Professor Chris Abell, Pro-Vice Chancellor for Research at Cambridge, said: “The University of Cambridge is committed to producing excellent research. By signing up to DORA, we want to demonstrate to our researchers that we value the quality and content of their research regardless of how and where it is published.”

Professor Steve Russell from the University’s Department of Genetics, will chair the DORA Working Group, which will oversee the implementation of the DORA recommendations.

“This is an important step for the University, particularly for early career researchers where all too often career progression is based on judgments using flawed metrics,” says Professor Russell. “By signing DORA the University is making very positive step towards developing a culture where research excellence is assessed by the quality of the work and not by the title of the Journal where it is published.”

DORA calls on institutions to be explicit about the criteria used to reach hiring, tenure, and promotion decisions, clearly highlighting, especially for early-stage researchers, that the content of a paper is much more important than publication metrics or the identity of the journal in which it was published.

In addition to research publications, DORA recommends considering the value and impact of all research outputs (including datasets and software) and a broad range of impact measures including qualitative indicators of research impact, such as influence on policy and practice, for the purposes of research assessment.

The University’s HR Division will begin implementing a number of changes to ensure the agreement’s recommendations are reflected across its recruitment, reward and promotions schemes.

Brigitte Shull, Director of Scholarly Communications Research & Development at Cambridge University Press, added: “The principles of DORA align with our open research strategy and ongoing activities around improved metrics and recognizing author contributions. By signing up to DORA, we want to help improve the way the quality of research is assessed and expand the range of tools to better account for a variety of research outputs.”

In February, Cambridge became one of the first UK universities to publish a position statement on Open Research. Its statement set out the key principles for the conduct and support of Open Research at the University, which aims to increase inclusivity and collaboration, unlock access to knowledge and improve the transparency and reproducibility of research.

The recommendation to sign DORA at the University was made by the Open Research Working Group, chaired by Professor Richard Penty, and at the Press by the Open Research Steering Committee, chaired by Brigitte Shull.

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