Survey of Current Practice in Research Assessment

This activity is now closed. The information on this page is provided for historical purposes only.

We commissioned a study of the role of research libraries in the higher education research assessment regimes in five countries: the Republic of Ireland, the UK, the Netherlands, Denmark and Australia. This work was carried out by Key Perspectives, a UK library and scholarly publishing consultancy. The report was published in December 2009.


Much attention is being directed towards research assessment and the development of procedures for assessment both in universities and at a national level. In the UK, which has had a national research assessment process aimed at fostering research excellence for over two decades, research assessment has absorbed huge amounts of attention, effort and time, and has undoubtedly contributed towards a change in attitudes of university managers and research communities towards their missions and towards their fellow institutions. Some believe that competitiveness has displaced the collegiate, collaborative values that the academy once held.

Those countries that have pursued different paths in regard to funding higher education and research, distributing funding on a less combative basis, may not have themselves engendered the levels of competitiveness that may be seen in the UK, for example. Nevertheless, with the rise in usage of world university ranking systems like the Times Higher World University Ranking and the Jiao Tong Academic Ranking of World Universities, a new urgency is informing the approach to competition among universities worldwide, and within various regions and sectors.

This study describes research assessment regimes and the role of research libraries within these processes. Libraries occupy an interesting position within the academy, both belonging to an institution yet to an extent separated from it. There is – arguably - a set of "research library values" that remains independent of local, institutional values, enabling libraries to occupy a unique and constructive role in the development of research assessment processes.

This work stems from an awareness that "excellence initiatives" within national university systems have been proliferating in recent years, with some countries examining the UK's system to see if it may be adapted, and others seeking to modify existing systems where the financial stakes may be less high, but the need to produce more internationally competitive universities is growing stronger. Given the prominence in most such systems of institutionally published research outputs for assessment, a variety of library roles seems clear, but the systems are themselves still in formation, and roles are not yet stable, nor is best practice evident or agreed. Libraries have an understanding of scholarly communication processes - though they are currently in a state of rapid transformation to keep pace with the way scholars work. They understand the broad range of outputs and the publishing behaviour of scholars across disciplines, and the methodological constraints, limitations and variances that (should) pertain to assessment exercises.


This report based upon information from key institutional players in countries with university systems heavily dependent on public funding helps establish the contours of a new set of responsibilities that is emerging for research libraries. Information on how libraries are engaged in research assessment in these five different regimes helps libraries and their host universities to move in the direction of settled good practice.


This project examined the role of research libraries in research assessment regimes in five different countries.


The project:

  • Revealed the characteristics of current research library involvement in research assessment support
  • Investigated the characteristics of several different research assessment regimes and their advantages and disadvantages
  • Identified the activities undertaken in carrying out research assessment in institutions
  • Identified activities in institutions that are geared towards satisfying future requirements
  • Analyzed the effect of research assessment procedures on the values of the academy
  • Identified points of good or best practice for libraries in support of national or institutional research assessment


Research university library directors and senior managers Senior research administrators in research-intensive universities.


Interviews with librarians, research administrators and researchers.


Most recent updates: Page content: 2011-11-05


John MacColl