What is research quality and how can we ensure it?

Posted on February 11, 2015  /  1 Comments

I was invited to a roundtable discussion on the first part of the above question today, along with the heads of several think tanks in Colombo. Having gone out of sense of citizenship, I will summarize the key points that I made so something is realized from the expenditure of two hours that could have been otherwise spent.

Be it academic research or policy-relevant research there is always an audience. What matters are that audience’s criteria of research quality. In the academic world, peer review operationalizes that albeit imperfectly. It’s easier, perhaps, to identify the priority audiences in the case of policy-relevant research, but harder to get a clear fix on the different criteria of quality they may hold. What this means is that there is no single definition of research quality. It varies from audience to audience. It varies from journal to journal, even in the academic context.

So the quest for research quality never ends. One can only put in place a procedure for achieving it. That includes minimum conditions such as ensuring the replicability of research, whatever the method, a robust review culture within the organization that allows and encourages strong criticism and actually putting money behind demands for rigorous reviews rather than making it some kind of vague citizenship obligation.

No idea whether my audience agreed with me or whether they thought my comments were of adequate quality. But that is what I got out of it. There were plenty of comments that I did not agree with, which I will not spend time on.

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