Italy’s first-ever national research assessment has been received cautiously by scientists, who demanded greater transparency in its data collection process.
The Italian university research evaluation agency, Anvur, published the results of the assessment exercise on 16 July. It is the first time research performance data have been evaluated across Italy, and the results will be used to distribute €540 million in funding for academia.
“Anvur’s architecture is an unusual mix based on both bibliometric data and peer review, thus failing to provide a homogeneous output,” said Alberto Baccini, a professor at the University of Siena and member of Return on Academic Research, a group critical of Anvur. Baccini said the data must become more accessible “because, as they are now, the published data are not reproducible and controllable and we do not know how we were evaluated.”
But Baccini’s concerns are not valid, according to Italy’s research minister, Maria Chiara Carrozza. Peer review and bibliometric indicators were correctly used to assess the country’s research performance, she said. “I want to emphasise the great effort for transparency made by dozens of universities and researchers who participated in this research,” Carrozza added.
The Anvur assessment examined nearly 185,000 publications and other research “products” produced by professors and scientists at 133 universities and research institutes.
The analysis of the results shows that the University of Padova is the best of the large universities, the University of Trento is the best of the medium-sized universities and Sant’Anna School of Advanced Studies in Pisa stands out among the small ones. Overall, the best universities are mostly in the north of the country. “The gap between north and south is unfortunately growing,” warns Stefano Fantoni, Anvur’s president.
Italy’s National Research Council, the CNR, performed less well than expected. According to Fantoni, this may be because the CNR submitted significantly fewer papers than requested. But CNR president said the assessment’s remit was too narrow to take the council’s work into account.