For better or for worse, SSH research has been into focus quite a lot during these last years. From political declarations setting an “embedding” agenda to recurrent complaints of scholars in the area about being marginalised or ill-treated in research and innovation ecosystems that are driven by managerial forces, much talk has been spent about the specificities of the SSH and the need to take these into consideration, and one of the ways to do this is through improved evaluation practices.
The European Network for Research Evaluation in the SSH (ENRESSH), a freshly kicked-off COST Action (CA 15137), is designed to address this pressing requirement. By bringing together specialists in the sociology of organisations with historians of sciences, bibliometricians, librarians, database designers and, far from in the last place, SSH scholars with experience in research evaluation, ENRESSH seeks to conceive new ways to visualise, document and ultimately assess SSH research. The main idea is that adapted, robust and transparent procedures for SSH research evaluation will increase stakeholders’ trust about the contribution of the SSH to academia and society. At the same time, it will help reduce the fragmentation of the field through shared standards.
The ultimate goal is thus to enable SSH scholars to take control of the agenda and to better demonstrate the value of their work. In order to do so, members put in common their knowledge and current investigations of research processes in the SSH, so as to establish a solid conceptual framework underpinning new research evaluation methodologies; whilst doing so, they focus on norms and practices for what is regarded as legitimate engagement in societal challenges, as a basis for stimulating it further. Additionally, the network works on identifying the conditions for effective databases for recording SSH outcomes and impact, and reflects upon the technical constraints associated with initiating, compiling and sustaining those databases.
In our endeavour, special interest will be, per force, paid to peer-review processes. On the one hand, SSH scholars have voiced a special attachment to these, seen as good or even ultimate research evaluation practices, as opposed to quantitative approaches; on the other hand, problems of organisation, fairness, transparency, and even know-how are acute in large sections of the SSH, where a large survey and a close monitoring remains to be organised about how outputs of research are selected for publication or projects for funding. ENRESSH can therefore benefit from PEERE advances on this topic, while bringing its own expertise to tackling the questions PEERE is set out to solve. A joint workshop or conference would be a good way to confront research in hand on both sides and to progress towards a common understanding of the problems.
The website of the Action is under construction and will be available soon. In the meantime, you can visit our page on the COST portal (http://www.cost.eu/COST_Actions/ca/CA15137) or have a glimpse at the website of EVALHUM, a European association for the promotion of the SSH in which several members of ENRESSH are active (http://www.evalhum.eu). For further details, please do not hesitate to drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
19 May 2016
Chair of the COST Action CA 15137: ENRESSH