Comment on:

The following comment refers to this/these guideline(s)

Guideline 5

Dimensions of performance and assessment criteria

To assess the performance of researchers, a multidimensional approach is called for; in addition to academic and scientific achievements, other aspects may be taken into consideration. Performance is assessed primarily on the basis of qualitative measures, while quantitative indicators may be incorporated into the overall assessment only with appropriate differentiation and reflection. Where provided voluntarily, individual circumstances stated in curricula vitae – as well as the categories specified in the German General Equal Treatment Act (Allgemeines Gleichbehandlungsgesetz) – are taken into account when forming a judgement.


High-quality research is oriented towards criteria specific to individual disciplines. In addition to the generation of and critical reflection on findings, other aspects of performance are taken into consideration in the evaluation process. Examples include involvement in teaching, academic self-governance, public relations, and knowledge and technology transfer; contributions to the general good of society may also be recognised. An individual’s approach to research, such as an openness to new findings and a willingness to take risks, is also considered. Appropriate allowance is made for periods of absence due to personal, family or health reasons or for prolonged training or qualification phases resulting from such periods, and for alternative career paths or similar circumstances.

Individual performance assessment and exclusion of discrimination

In order for performance evaluation to rely solely on objective criteria, selection procedures must specifically address both conscious and unconscious biases based on non-academic factors. For individual academic performance to be comparable, it must be assessed according to uniform, transparent criteria that are both legally and scientifically permissible. In order to create a climate of trust and open discourse in research cooperation and performance assessment, one fundamental requirement is the acceptance of different individual life paths and gender equality.

The factors mentioned in the General Equal Treatment Act (Allgemeines Gleichbehandlungsgesetz – AGG):

  • race,
  • ethnic origin,
  • gender,
  • religion or world view,
  • disability,
  • age and
  • sexual identity

may under no circumstances be included in an academic performance evaluation to the detriment of an individual since they are entirely irrelevant in this context.

An individual’s capacity to engage in academic activity may also be limited in time due to a certain personal situation. In particular, absences due to the individual’s own serious illness or disability as well as absences due to family obligations (pregnancy, birth and care of children, care of relatives) are to be regarded as unavoidable. Generally speaking, researchers concerned are powerless to avoid such absences.

With regard to a researcher’s family planning, special note should be taken of the fact that

  1. by deciding to start a family (partnership, procreation, pregnancy, birth, adoption), the individual is exercising a fundamental human right;
  2. the average period of biological fertility in individuals of child-bearing age overlaps significantly with the extensive qualification phase required by the academic system in Germany.

The decision to become pregnant and/or have children must not be counted as a disadvantage to female or male researchers at any point. Furthermore, it is important to consider that the decision to have children in a partnership places a significantly greater burden on the person bearing the child as compared to the non-bearing parent due to the factors of pregnancy, birth and, where applicable, breastfeeding.

Providing long-term care for adult relatives can also be a time factor to be taken into consideration in performance evaluation.

When allowing for individual circumstances, protection of the privacy of those concerned and the compliance with the relevant data protection law require a sensitive approach to personal data as well as any additional details of the individual’s academic career and personal life. Systems must be in place to ensure data privacy, especially when it comes to handling highly sensitive data. What is more, voluntary provision of information and the confidentiality of the personal details must be guaranteed.

The factors are relevant in the context of comparative individual performance evaluation so as to be able to relate academic performance to the time actually spent on academic activities. This includes adequately deducting disclosed periods of absence that were not the individual’s own fault, e.g. as a result of family commitments, disability or chronic illness.

In addition to the above-mentioned points on recognising periods of absence, there may be other ways in which disadvantages have to be compensated for in the performance evaluation (hardship provision). Cases of hardship apply where individuals suffer a major disadvantage that goes beyond the general risk to life and limb (to which everyone is subject) through no fault of their own. This is why it is important to incorporate appropriate hardship provisions when drawing up formal performance assessment procedures. To ensure equality of treatment, formal hardship provisions should provide for individual cases to be judged according to clear-cut, uniform criteria and for this to be documented accordingly.

The comment belongs to the following categories:

GL5 (General)