Peer review for the evaluation of the academic research: the Italian experience
Peer review, that is the evaluation process based on judgments formulated by independent experts, is generally used for different goals: the allocation of research funding, the review of the research results submitted for publication in scientific journals, and the assessment of the quality of research conducted by Universities and university-related Institutes. The paper deals with the latter type of peer review. The aim is to understand how the characteristics of the Italian experience provide useful lessons for improving peer review effectiveness for evaluating the academic research. More specifically, the paper investigates the peer review process developed within the Three-Year Research Assessment Exercise (VTR) in Italy. Our analysis covers four disciplinary sectors: chemistry, biology, humanities and economics. Thus, the choice includes two “hard science” sectors, which have similar type of research output submitted for the three-year evaluation process, and two sectors with different types of output. The results provide evidences, which highlight the important role played by peer review for judging the quality of the academic research in different fields of science, and for comparing different institutions’ performance. Moreover, some basic features of the evaluation process are discussed, in order to understand their usefulness for reinforcing the effectiveness of the peers’ final outcome.
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