Time for Research

Time for effectively doing research seems to be shrinking, constrained by writing grant applications and papers, peer reviewing and other duties. How can we shift science from producing ever more and more to creating in-depth and meaningful research?

Conclusions at the congress «We Scientists Shape Science»

Saving time needs to be done on a systemic, institutional, and personal level. The higher up we climb the scientific ladder, the less time we have for research. The participants of the workshop propose several changes to ensure enough time for research in a scientist’s life.

On the systemic level, we should reduce our obsession for quantity and focus on quality. The quantification of research outputs produces more quantitative evaluation, and the misuse of metrics happens in the «established » science system as well as amongst young researchers. Tools like the San Francisco declaration on research assessment (DORA) should be more taken into account, be it by the Swiss national science foundation (SNF), who has signed the DORA declaration, or by administrative bodies that are responsible for public science like the State Secretariat for Research and Innovation (SERI).

On the institutional level, the evaluation processes should be better formulated in accordance with the aims of an evaluation as well as with the context where the evaluation takes place in order to avoid 'rituals'. We should slow down the frequency and the intensity of routine evaluation. Evaluation must remain formative, not so much summative, and evaluation should not be seen as a tool for controlling. Additionally, we could enhance an evaluation’s quality and save time for research by submitting only the most important two (=<5) publications to funding bodies rather than full lists. We have to slow down quantitative production of research outputs and focus on quality. A good way to ensure protected time for young researchers could be to generalize the ex-ante evaluation and leave them alone and autonomous.

On a personal level, saving time for research could be ensured by prioritizing our tasks. For example, going only to important international meetings, take sabbaticals and create time to think. Making administrative tasks more visible could be a way to better take it into account in order to enhance our time explicitly dedicated to research. Delegating tasks to our coworkers and to administrators (and trust them) is a way to better manage our own time. We must resist the tendency to become our own secretariat, graphic designer and attend all technical meetings rather than send delegates.

Workshop held at the congress «We Scientists Shape Science», January 2017, Bern. Conclusions are based on the debate in the workshop and on online comments by the participants.

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