Knowledge and Decision in the Evaluation of Scientific Research: European Legal Experiences Compared
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The author examines one of the profiles of evaluation applied to university and scientific institutions, namely evaluation pertaining to scientific research. Evaluation in the field of scientific research, especially public, plays and is destined to play an ever increasingly more essential role. In fact, while in the case of scientific research performed by private subjects evaluation is essentially left up to the selection mechanisms that characterise the market, its diffusion in the sector of public scientific research is not intended to introduce surreptitious mechanisms of competition, but constitutes the response to a precise idea, namely that it - as an instrument of knowledge in view of the results - is functional not only to better regulating scientific investigation, but also to improving it. Such improvement is tied, in the first place, to the allocation of resources, in a context where the funding is no longer just national, but being done ever increasingly more at the European and, generally speaking, international level. In the author's view, the current evolution of Italy's research evaluation system makes a comparative analysis of certain European experiences advisable for better comprehending the possible futures lines of development and responding to the fundamental questions that are posed in this sector, i.e. whether the evaluation of scientific research in a strict sense is possible and, if so, to what extent; and, even before that, whether there is a need for such evaluation. Although the complexity of the organisation of public research in the different countries constitutes an obstacle to the circulation of knowledge, the sector of the legal discipline of scientific research - like others - is one of the fields where the factors of imitation and the transplantation of experiences are particularly important. Comparison then appears useful not only for cognitive purposes, but also as a necessary step of any policy of law and reform of the existing institutions. The work also sheds light on how the theme of the evaluation of research is tied to that of the scientific freedom of the researcher and the autonomy of research institutions. Therefore, the evaluation mechanisms, whatever their model, cannot prejudice the need to preserve these same institutions from outside interference in the form of a generalised conditioning of their activity. The demand for or, better yet, the need/advisability of evaluating the activities cannot assume the simplified form of financial conditioning, but can only - unless the desire is to subvert the framework of university autonomy and scientific freedom - be founded on evaluation policies (State) aimed at the verification of the results, based on direct analysis of the single cases for co-operative purposes with an eye to improving quality.