Modern-day science is under great pressure. A potent mix of increasing expectations, limited resources, tensions between competition and cooperation, and the need for evidence-based funding is creating major change in how science is conducted and perceived. Amidst this ‘perfect storm’ is the allure of ‘research excellence’, a concept that drives decisions made by universities and funders, and defines scientists’ research strategies and career trajectories.
But what is ‘excellent’ science? And how to recognise it? After decades of inquiry and debate there is still no satisfactory answer. Are we asking the wrong question? Is reality more complex, and ‘excellence in science’ more elusive, than many are willing to admit? And how should excellence be defined in different parts of the world, particularly in lower-income countries of the ‘Global South’ where science is expected to contribute to pressing development issues, despite often scarce resources? Many wonder whether the Global South is importing, with or without consenting, the flawed tools for research evaluation from North America and Europe that are not fit for purpose.
This book takes a critical view of these issues, touching on conceptual issues and practical problems that inevitably emerge when ‘excellence’ is at the center of science systems. Emerging from the capacity-building work of the Science Granting Councils Initiative in sub-Saharan Africa, it speaks to scholars, as well as to managers and funders of research around the world. Confronting sticky problems and uncomfortable truths, the chapters contain insights and recommendations that point towards new solutions – both for the Global South and the Global North.
01 Introduction | Erika Kraemer-Mbula, Robert Tijssen, Matthew L. Wallace and Robert McLean
Part 1. Theoretical and conceptual underpinnings
02 Redefining the concept of excellence in research with development in mind | Judith Sutz
03 The Republic of Science meets the Republics of Somewhere: Embedding scientific excellence in sub-Saharan Africa | Joanna Chataway and Chux Daniels
04 Re-valuing research excellence: From excellentism to responsible assessment | Robert Tijssen
05 Gender diversity and the transformation of research excellence | Erika Kraemer-Mbula
06 Research excellence is a neo-colonial agenda (and what might be done about it) | Cameron Neylon
Part 2. Research excellence in practice
07 Utility over excellence: Doing research in Indonesia | Fajri Siregar
08 Supporting research in Côte d’Ivoire: Processes for selecting and evaluating projects | Annette Ouattara and Yaya Sangaré
09 Sustaining research excellence and productivity with funding from development partners: The case of Makerere University | Vincent A. Ssembatya
10 Southern conceptions of research excellence | Suneeta Singh and Falak Raza
11 From perception to objectivity: How think tanks’ search for credibility may lead to a more rigorous assessment of research quality | Enrique Mendizabal
Part 3 Striving for solutions
12 Exploring research evaluation from a sustainable development perspective | Diego Chavarro
13 Indicators for the assessment of excellence in developing countries | Rodolfo Barrere
14 Rethinking scholarly publishing: How new models can facilitate transparency, equity, efficiency and the impact of science | Liz Allen and Elizabeth Marincola
15 Research Quality Plus: Another way is possible | Jean Lebel and Robert McLean
16 Call to action: Transforming ‘excellence’ for the Global South and beyond | Erika Kraemer-Mbula, Robert Tijssen, Matthew L. Wallace, Robert McLean, Liz Allen, Rodolfo Barrere, Joanna Chataway, Diego Chavarro, Chux Daniels, Jean Lebel, Elizabeth Marincola, Enrique Mendizabal, Cameron Neylon, Annette Ouattara, Falak Raza, Yaya Sangaré, Suneeta Singh, Fajri Siregar, Vincent A. Ssembatya and Judith Sutz 259