DORA announces SPACE rubric for analyzing institutional conditions and progress indicators

The San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment (DORA) is proud to announce “SPACE to Evolve Academic Assessment: A rubric for analyzing institutional conditions and progress indicators.” The SPACE rubric is the latest resource from DORA designed to support the development of fair and responsible academic assessment practices.

Universities can use the SPACE rubric to gauge and develop infrastructure to support their efforts to improve the ways researchers are assessed for hiring, promotion, and tenure. The matrix structure of the rubric allows universities to examine institutional progress for five critical areas of academic assessment reform: Standards for scholarship, Process mechanics and policies, Accountability, Culture within institutions, and Evaluative and iterative feedback.

“Embarking on the journey to reform research assessment can seem daunting for universities, which are complex organisations. The SPACE rubric is a valuable tool for thinking through where to start or checking the progress of ongoing work,” said Stephen Curry, DORA steering committee chair and Professor of Structural Biology at Imperial College London in the UK. “It is yet another example of DORA’s commitment to supporting the development of research assessment practices that provide robust alternatives to the misuse of metrics like the impact factor or h-index.”

The SPACE rubric is a product of DORA’s partnership with Ruth Schmidt, Associate Professor at the Institute of Design of the Illinois Institute of Technology, who led the iterative participatory design process, which drew insights and feedback from nearly 75 individuals in 26 countries and six continents.

“Scalable, substantive change to reform research assessment practices is a challenge in part because it can’t just be the sum of many individual interventions or a one-size-fits-all approach,” said Schmidt. “So the bottom-up nature of the rubric development process was designed to help us see patterns and principles rather than attempting to define a singular solution. Our hope is that the rubric helps institutions reframe how to look at this challenge for their particular context and allows them to make concrete strides, even if that initially just means defining what change means for them.”  

Since its release in 2013, more than 19,000 institutions and individuals in 145 countries have signed DORA and committed to improving the ways in which the outputs of scholarly research are evaluated. Because universities are naturally at different stages of readiness and evolution, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to academic assessment reform, and indicators of progress may not look the same. As a result, universities may benefit from focusing on different activities that strengthen capacity for improved research assessment practices.

“Organizations that sign DORA share an aspiration to improve the ways research is assessed for hiring, promotion, and tenure,” said DORA program director Anna Hatch. “We hope the SPACE rubric can support institutions at any stage of reform to develop and improve fair and responsible research assessment practices.”

DORA is organizing community calls on July 1, 2021, and July 8, 2021, to introduce the rubric and help shape contexts for use.