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“The Hardest Task”—Peer Review and the Evaluation of Technological Activities

Abstract

Technology development and innovation are fundamentally different from scientific research. However, in many circumstances, they are evaluated jointly and by the same processes. In these cases, peer review—the most usual procedure for evaluating research—is also applied to the evaluation of technological products and innovation activities. This can lead to unfair results and end up discouraging the involvement of researchers in these fields. This paper analyzes the evaluation processes in Uruguay's National System of Researchers. In this system, all members' activities, both scientific and technological, are evaluated by peer committees. Based on documentary analysis and semi-structured interviews, the difficulties faced by evaluators in assessing technology products are explored. The article highlights the persistence of a linear conception of the link between science and technology and describes the obstacles to assimilate the particularities of technological activities. Refereed publications are presented as the only uncontested product. Other types of output are reviewed with suspicion. This study emphasizes the need for specific mechanisms to evaluate technological production within academic careers.

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Notes

  1. This problem goes beyond the Latin American region. In the United States and Canada, tenure and promotion committees in universities do not place much value on the public impact of research (Schimanski and Alperin 2018; Alperin et al. 2019).

  2. Only researchers living in Uruguay and holding a position in a university or research institute are eligible to receive the financial incentive.

  3. Unlike the usual practice in other research assessment systems, SNI has only one set of criteria applicable to all disciplines.

  4. Plant varieties are registered in accordance with UPOV conventions. See Sanderson (2019) for a detailed account.

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Funding

This work was supported by Instituto Nacional de Tecnología Agropecuaria and Agencia Nacional de Promoción Científica y Tecnológica [grant PICT2018-2794].

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Vasen, F., Sierra Pereiro, M. “The Hardest Task”—Peer Review and the Evaluation of Technological Activities. Minerva 60, 375–395 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11024-022-09461-0

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Keywords

  • Research evaluation
  • Technological outputs
  • Peer review
  • National system of researchers
  • Latin America
  • Uruguay