US calls for more formal partnership with EU on research evaluation

November 24, 2005

Brussels, 23 Nov 2005

When it comes to evaluating the effectiveness and contribution of research and innovation systems, we are currently operating in an 'information vacuum', according to Bill Valdez, director for planning and analysis at the US Department of Energy's office of science.

Mr Valdez was giving a presentation to the European Parliament's industry, research and energy (ITRE) committee, trying to impress upon EU policy makers the value that cooperation between the US and Europe would have in the emerging field of research evaluation.

As a senior US science policy maker, one MEP asked Mr Valdez what he thought of the EU's ambition of becoming the world's most competitive knowledge based economy. 'The problem is that we don't really know who the world's most innovative economy is, because the evaluation methods that we currently have can't answer that,' he replied.

'If we are going to perform this type of analysis properly, we need to have comparisons available. Therefore, if the US and EU cooperate at the outset we will have a better chance of reaching satisfactory answers,' Mr Valdez told the committee.

Having decided that improved methods for evaluating research performance were needed, the US is now pressing ahead and developing an approach based on 'systems level analysis'. This approach to evaluation is modular, according to Mr Valdez, and can be scaled up piece by piece to ultimately provide an analysis of an entire country's research and innovation performance. Initial results show that it will be possible to compare innovation systems and model their behaviour, he says.

'This type of evaluation isn't cheap, but it isn't really expensive either,' he stressed. 'A 500,000 USD investment over the next five years would provide you with a good system model for innovation, for example.' He encouraged MEPs to press for financial commitments for systemic research evaluation

After his presentation, CORDIS News spoke to Mr Valdez and asked him what progress he had made in building partnerships with Europe in this field. He said that a number of contacts with Commission DG's including Research, Information Society and the Joint Research Centre had revealed a willingness for further cooperation.

'It would be much harder for me to do this by myself, and while I have a number of colleagues in the US that are adept in this area, there are some very smart people in Europe that can also help,' he continued. 'We can't do this in isolation, but mustn't get caught up in high level treaties - we need practical action based on what I call bureaucrat-to-bureaucrat contacts.'

As a next step, Mr Valdez would ideally like to something appear in the text for the Seventh Framework Programme that acknowledges this proposed approach. 'If there is funding available, perfect, but something that commits the cooperation of DGs with US partners would be great,' he said.

However, Mr Valdez stressed that as research evaluation has already been singled out by his government as an area that requires attention, the US cannot delay its efforts for the sake of potential partners. 'Now's the time to get on the train,' he concluded.

To see the slides of Mr Valdez' presentation to the ITRE committee, please visit: http://www.isc-europe.com/news28.php

CORDIS RTD-NEWS/© European Communities, 2001
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