Evaluation after evaluation! Sometimes it looks like Finland is addicted to evaluations

Addiction may be a little too imminent expression but Finnish authorities and actors in the field of science emphasize that evaluation of activities is elementary to obtain progress and excellence in any aspect of life and especially in science. The Academy of Science is the major forum for scientific evaluations.

by kari Keskinen

Another forum is the Federation of Finnish Learned Societies which has opened a special Publication Forum to maintain and develop classification of scientific publication channels. The main emphasis is on qualitative classification in all scientific fields. The evaluation takes place in 23 field specific panels with highly regarded experts in each of them. The ratings of publication channels on levels 1–3 (lowest – highest) will be revised every three years and latest one will be finalized by the end of 2014.

The project was initiated by the Universities Finland UNIFI in 2010 following Norwegian and Danish examples. The first classification was published in 2011 http://www.tsv.fi/files/yleinen/julkaisufoorumi-hankkeen_loppuraportti.pdf and now the material is serving as a quality indicator for the whole scientific publication production of universities within the Ministry of Education and Culture funding model as of 2015. It also helps Universities in developing their own activities. However, the classification is not suited for drawing comparisons between scientific fields, and under no circumstance can the classification super-cede content-based peer review in the evaluation of individual researchers or research groups.

In my posting within the featured articles the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports (SJMSS) was mentioned having obtained a high ranking among Sport Science Journals. Within the context of Publications Forum the SJMSS was classified in the category 2 which means that the SJMSS has been considered a leading scientific publication channel of various disciplines and, with researchers from various countries publishing their best research outcomes in that journal. The panel guidelines and classification criteria are openly accessible at http://www.tsv.fi/julkaisufoorumi/materiaalit/jufo_panelguidelines_17122013.pdf

Just to mention Liikunta & Tiede, which is the sole peer reviewed journal publishing original scientific articles in Finnish language, has been classified into category 1. This means that the journal is publishing scientific papers at basic level. Level 1 can be awarded to domestic and foreign publication channels (journals, congress proceedings and book series) and book publishers in the various disciplines, considered to be most important from the Finnish research perspective and meeting the criteria of a scientific publication channel.  

The Publications Forum accepts only the topmost publication series of various disciplines into category 3.  This means that the published research represents the highest level in the discipline and has very high impact (e.g., as measured through citation indicators); the series cover the discipline comprehensively, not limiting to the discussion of narrow special themes; both the authors and readers are international and the editorial boards are constituted by the leading researchers in the field; publication in these journals and series is highly appreciated among the international research community of the field.

So Finland has taken a step forward. Not only individual papers and researchers are evaluated but also the channels in which the papers appear. For an individual researcher this gives some guidelines on what journal to approach when planning a publication channel for a research paper. I hope this also helps the authorities to locate the most significant research findings. However, I only wish this would not become the sole tool to judge where funding for a single research project should be addressed.

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