The international Research Evaluation Board has completed its internal evaluation of research activity at CU. This is the first time that a Czech university has attempted, on its own initiative, to carry out such a comprehensive, critical and independent evaluation of its own research activity with the assistance of an international panel. According to the results of the evaluation, while, in some fields at some faculties, CU achieves a level that is comparable with the top universities in Europe (e.g. economics, archaeology, computer science, geography and cardiology), as a whole it must continue to improve in order to achieve that to which it must naturally aspire: to be one of the best universities in Europe.
For almost two years, several hundred, primarily international, experts have been examining the outcomes of research at the University in the years 2014 - 2018, familiarising themselves with the organisation of research, involvement in international projects, training of fledgling researchers and other aspects of research at CU. In order to ensure the maximum degree of objectivity, the members of the Board were nominated by the Rector of CU based on recommendations of the International Board of CU and partner universities from the 4EU+ Alliance.
“This is a significant act, and a step forward, for Charles University. I wish to thank all experts at the University and its faculties and the representatives of the evaluation panel who have participated in the evaluation for all the hard work they have done, which will benefit our university in the future,” says Charles University Rector Prof. Tomáš Zima.
Several reference universities (e.g. the universities of Leuven, Heidelberg and Copenhagen), with which the evaluators compared CU’s performance, were chosen as the quality benchmark. “Amongst the many subsidiary outputs, we can highlight two as the main ones: Research Area Evaluation Reports, for which four expert panels were responsible, and the the Unit Evaluation Reports, for which the Board was responsible. It is important to emphasise that both research areas and units of CU were evaluated in relation to the reference universities. The units of CU were not, therefore, compared to each other, and the results of the evaluation should not be regarded in this way,” added Vice-rector for Research Prof. Jan Konvalinka.
The Board also compiled a closing document, the Executive Summary, which summarises the entire, long evaluation process, summarises the evaluation of individual units of CU, and submits numerous recommendations that are intended to aid the University on its road to excellent research and creative activity. The most important of these is considered to be increased support for the publication of the results of research in prestigious international journals or publishing houses. The second recommendation to be discussed in great detail by the evaluators was the high fragmentation of research fields at the University, which, in its view, reduces the effectiveness of research in the individual fields and wastes human potential and other resources. They considered the issue of fragmentation to be a major one and the start of an internal discussion of this topic at the University to be a fundamental step towards the future.
The chairman of the Board, Prof. Jacques Revel from the Parisian École des hautes études en sciences sociales summed up his feelings from the long evaluation process in the following words: “In spite of all the challenges and hurdles we had to face, including the unpredictable complications related to the Covid-19 pandemic, we can honestly say that we consider this complex project to be a success. We believe that all of the participants in this process gained valuable experience that will help us in defining the procedures for future evaluation processes, as well as improving their application in the future development of the University.”
Although the evaluation has been officially finished, now begins a period, of no lesser importance, of discussion on how the outcomes, results and recommendations gained can be best applied in order to ensure the real improvement of CU and its research and creative activities. It will also be important to thoroughly analyse the concluded evaluation process and gain constructive feedback for its improvement in future years.
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