The University of Liverpool, my University, is currently developing a Code of Practice for the Annual Assessment of Individual Research and Impact Performance. There is an internal consultation and this post is my open contribution to this consultation process following a short presentation (this morning) of the draft code to staff of my Institute by The Faculty APVC for Research and Impact, Prof Malcolm Jackson.
A draft document is available on the intranet for University of Liverpool staff. Whilst I cannot share the draft code (an internal University document currently under consultation), I can reveal that the motivation, spirit, and managerial consequences of the code are entirely dictated by the concepts of “excellence” and “increasing the number of 4* papers” ahead of the next Research Excellence Framework (REF). For non UK readers, REF is a national exercise of evaluation of the research carried in Universities which happens every few years and which has important implications in term of core funding (more via Wikipedia here).
The point I made in the meeting this morning, and which I now reiterate, is that this attitude to management of research, focusing on excellence and 4* papers, is not visionary and not world leading. It is what everyone else is doing with disastrous consequences. It is not setting the scene and it is not ambitious.
We, as a scientific community, are facing serious challenges since a very large portion of the research we produce is not reproducible. This is now so regularly in the news that a specific link becomes unnecessary. In an excellent (SIC) and timely paper published yesterday and entitled “Excellence R Us: University Research and the Fetishisation of Excellence”, Samuel Moore and colleagues write (abstract):
We trace the roots of issues in reproducibility, fraud, as well as diversity to the stories we tell ourselves as researchers and offer an alternative rhetoric based on soundness. “Excellence” is not excellent, it is a pernicious and dangerous rhetoric that undermines the very foundations of good research and scholarship.
An Institution of the size of the University of Liverpool could be leading by advocating and adopting a scientific culture  that promotes soundness. John Ioannidis explains both the problems with our research practices and potential solutions in his Berlin Institute of Health Annual Special Lecture given a few weeks ago. In particular, from 1:11:37, he discusses the “future re-engineering of our reward system”:
As a very minimum requirement, the University should adopt the San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment, and the principles of that declaration should be reaffirmed in the draft code.
In considering a new code of evaluation, it is essential to consider the impact of assessment on research practices. We need to change the incentives to improve research and this consultation could be an opportunity to do that: let’s the University of Liverpool be part of those that shape the future of how we do research.
UPDATE: Stephen Curry has kindly pointed to this very relevant document from Imperial College: Application and Consistency of Approach in the Use of Performance Metrics, A report by the Associate Provost [Institutional Affairs] December 2015
 see also, The Culture of Scientific Research, Nuffield Council on Bioethics, 2014