One in four Norwegian humanities researchers ‘never publishes’

Major evaluation of country’s research landscape also found that internationalisation was a key area for improvement

July 16, 2017
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Question of priorities ‘in some universities, staff had 10 per cent of their time allocated to do research’

More than a quarter of humanities researchers in Norway have never published, according to the first evaluation of the discipline in the country for 30 years.

The study, which was commissioned by the Research Council of Norway, found that 26 per cent of researchers in the discipline had no publications and, while there were “pockets of excellence” in most areas of the humanities, no research groups or universities “reached the highest levels of international performance”.

Overall, however, the humanities had a higher than average rate of publication per academic staff member than the other disciplines in the country, according to the report.

The humanities accounted for 16.8 per cent of Norway’s national publications output, and there was a 7.8 per cent increase in publications between 2011 and 2015, it added.

The Evaluation of the Humanities in Norway, which was undertaken by 54 international humanities scholars, assessed 2,300 researchers and 97 research groups in 36 organisations in 2016 and early 2017.

Shearer West, deputy vice-chancellor of the University of Sheffield and chair of the evaluation’s principal committee, said that the high proportion of researchers without publications was probably because research in the country is concentrated at its four big research universities: the University of Oslo, University of Bergen, Norwegian University of Science and Technology and UiT The Arctic University of Norway.

“There are a whole bunch of university colleges and other organisations that were more like teaching colleges that have recently begun to be merged with larger institutions. They don’t have a research culture yet they are expected to do research,” she said.

“In some universities that we looked at, staff had 10 per cent of their time allocated to do research, whereas in other places it was closer to 40 per cent or even 45 per cent.”

PhD students accounted for just one-third of the non-publishing research staff.

She said that the main conclusion of the evaluation was that the government and the university sector must “think more strategically about their priorities in terms of humanities research”.

“We didn’t see a lot of evidence of this,” she said.

The report also highlighted internationalisation as a key area for improvement and found that in many instances research was focused on “Norwegian issues and contexts”.

“In a number of cases, the focus on Norwegian research did not lead to sufficient emphasis on how topics, questions and problems investigated in Norwegian case studies should be related to larger, comparable international phenomena,” the panel found.

It also recommended that researchers should target more internationally leading journals and peer-reviewed books while universities should increase inward and outward mobility of academics.

While some institutions provided funds for staff to spend time abroad during sabbaticals, there was “little evidence” of institutions providing fellowships or opportunities for researchers from other countries to visit and spend time working with their own staff in Norway, according to the study.

ellie.bothwell@timeshighereducation.com

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