How is science evaluated and supported at the First Faculty of Medicine of the Charles University?
The faculty had recently sent off a number of evaluative reports. In some, it evaluated itself, in others it compared itself with other Czech or international institutions. Science at the First Faculty was evaluated by scientists themselves, international experts, and Czech administrative staff. Interpretation of evaluation of science is rather complex, so we want to share at least a simplified outline about how the First Faculty is doing in terms of science, what challenges its experts face, and it what ways it plans to support their research in the future.
The core M17+ methodical guidelines
Evaluation of science based on data from the Registry of Information about Outputs (RIV) was conducted at the faculty until 2016. Since 2017, it has been gradually replaced by the M17+ guidelines, which was created by a government decision on Guidelines on evaluation of research organisations and evaluation of programmes of targeted support to research, development, and innovations. The M17+ guidelines are a comprehensive evaluation based on five modules (M1–M5), whose aim is to improve the effectiveness of public resource spending. The result is an evaluation of a research organisation using four grades – A, B, C, D (with A being ‘excellent) – which then determine the amount of financing. Within the framework of evaluation of scientific activities using the M17+ guidelines were created both evaluation reports of particular areas of science developed at our university (Charles University Evaluation Report) and evaluation reports of individual parts of research organisations (First Faculty of Medicine Evaluation Report), which are available on the IS science portal (Evidence a hodnocení tvůrčí činnosti na UK, https://is.cuni.cz/veda/hodnoceni/dashboard).
Evaluation of national science by international experts
In 2014–2018, there was also undertaken a National evaluation of scientific activity at the Charles University and its parts. Scientific activities were evaluated by the board in collaboration with a panel of external evaluators (panelists), international experts proposed by individual faculties. The evaluators took as their starting point selected results (peer review), bibliometric data (categories FORD / CUNI / WOS), self-evaluation reports of faculties, and results of modules M4 and M5. Evaluators also compared the university and its faculties to similar, ‘benchmark’, universities. Faculties of the Charles University proposed for comparison universities in Milano, Vienna, Leeuwen, Copenhagen, Heidelberg, and Warsaw. International experts in the final reports presented an evaluation of not only the university and its individual faculties but also listed a number of recommendations that should lead to improvement of quality of scientific output. They emphasised especially the need for greater internationalisation of the university environment, while in scientific work they stressed the need for quality being viewed as more important than quantity. With respect to medicine, these experts criticised especially the excessive fragmentation of scientific teams across the five medical faculties of the Charles University and lack of participation in important international grants– such as those from the European Research Council – with experts from a medical faculty of the Charles University in position of chief investigator. Despite numerous comments and criticisms, the report concluded that in view of the relatively low level of institutional financing, scientific activity at the Charles University can be compared with universities abroad.
According to internal evaluation, we are the best medical faculty at the Charles University
Another evaluation of science to which the First Faculty of Medicine of the CU was recently subjected is the internal evaluation of Charles University whose structure copied the M3 module from national evaluation according to the M17+ guidelines. The resulting evaluation of individual faculties moved within the range of A, B, B+, C, C+, D, D+, whereby once again the resulting ‘grade’ had an impact on institutional financing. Among five faculties which achieved the best grade (B+) was also the First Faculty of Medicine. No other medical faculty of the Charles University had achieved this grade.
New composition of the Science Board
With a change on the post of the dean, the composition of the Science Board of the First Faculty of Medicine of the CU had also changed in 2020. It maintained the basic 60 members where one-third of them come from outside the university. What is actually the task of the Science Board? Discussed at its meetings are procedures leading to appointment of professors and habilitation procedures. The faculty has accreditation for organising habilitation procedures and appointment of professors in 37 particular fields, and it also proposes honorary doctorates to the Science Board of the Charles University. Additionally, it approves courses of study at the faculty, composition of committees for final state examinations, members of area boards, and supervisors of doctoral studies. Now, for instance, it will also approve the composition of coordination boards for the new Cooperatio programme. The Science Board also takes a position on the basic issues regarding the direction in which the faculty should develop. At the suggestion of dean of the First Faculty of Medicine of the CU, important scientists can receive at the occasion of important milestones (birthdays) or in appreciation of their contribution to the development of the university historical, golden, or silver medal of the Charles University. The Dean’s College approves proposals put forward by the Science Board of the First Faculty of Medicine regarding appointment of visiting professors. Visiting professors from past years include Professor Dr. Med. Jiří Dvořák from the Schulthess Klinik in Zurich or Professor Anthony J. Bleyer, M.D., of the Wake Forest School of Medicine, USA. At present, the faculty is also organising the possibility of appointing visiting professors to the post of international members of the Science Board. As part of its efforts to support internationalisation of the faculty, the Dean’s College had recently expressed its support for the option of presenting habilitation theses in English.
The new Cooperatio programme
The most important news in area of faculty science is the currently ongoing preparation of and transiting to a new programme, the Cooperatio, which will on 1 January 2022 replace the current Progres programme. Cooperatio is a structurally different institutional instrument of support of development of science at the Charles University, which will work on a strictly interfaculty basis. It will be divided according to areas of science approved by the Science Board of the Charles University for the entire university. Based on a mutual agreement between the faculties and the rectorate, there will be a main university coordinator appointed for each field, whereby this appointment will be subject to approval by the particular science boards of faculties. Each faculty will have, in the board, a representative for each area of science in which it scientifically participates. The whole process of creation of the new structure of Cooperatio will take place in several stages but in such as way that starting in 2022, the particular fields of science and their parts should be active and operational. At this point, the individual faculties are designating the fields of science which they intend to systematically develop. More detailed information will be published by each faculty on all levels.
Scientific achievements at the faculty
Based on a proposal by the Vice Dean for Scientific Activity, the Dean’s College had recently approved a change in the algorithm for internal calculation of scientific output at the First Faculty of Medicine of the Charles University so as to better reflect a general shift in evaluation of scientific output at the university and its parts. This shift took place in connection with the national evaluation of research organisation according to the M17+ guidelines and its most notable feature is emphasis on quality rather than quantity. This is why the ‘quantitative’ bibliometric parameter (BIB points) was abandoned and a qualitative parameter – based on the area-specific quartile of journal where a particular output was published – was introduced (IF points). In terms of points, this will thus put more emphasis on articles published in excellent journals (first decile in the field, first quartile in the field). Moreover, it has also been decided that the number of persons awarded bonuses should be unified and henceforth, a certain sum will be divided among fifty best publishing authors at the First Faculty of the Charles University. The sum that will be divided was increased to 1.2 million CZK. The faculty, meanwhile, emphasises also a clear and unequivocal dedication of a publication to the First Faculty of Medicine.
Awards for excellent publicationsEach year, the faculty expresses its appreciation of excellent research by awarding a Prize of Dean’s College for Excellent Publications. This award fully corresponds with the experts’ recommendation, voiced in their evaluation report, to provide financial bonuses for the best publications. Five best scientific publications dedicated to the First Faculty of Medicine from the position of the first author or corresponding author which appeared in an impact factor journal falling into the first quartile (ideally first decile) in the field are chosen by secret ballot by the Dean’s College from a list of works nominated by heads of faculty’s institutes. In short, the aim is to select publications which the faculty presents as key results of creative activity within the national, university-wide, and internal evaluation of scientific activity (module M1). What is new in this area is the faculty’s intention to award, in future, also some prize for excellent creative achievement, for instance a brilliant monograph or a patent. The faculty also provides support to publishing in Open Access format, i.e., in a form that enables open access to scientific publications. Access to scientific texts is enabled by scientists paying the publisher for publishing their work up to dozens of thousands of CZK. How can they access these resources? Scientists acquire them from grants, eventually from resources of their institutions (money earmarked at the institute for science). What is new is that top publications (in the first decile within the area of science), the first or corresponding author can ask the faculty for reimbursement for publication up to 4,000 EUR.