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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.

Scientific achievement and evaluation criteria in the life sciences

The rapid availability of methods has greatly accelerated research in many areas of the life sciences. Intense competition, combined with the enormous pressure to publish, is difficult to reconcile with high quality standards.

Quantitative publication output is currently a highly relevant factor in the life sciences as compared to other scientific disciplines. As a result, publication of thematically limited content or in sequential units has increased. Publications in the life sciences are usually classic articles in journals, though they may sometimes be presentations of results such as data or software packages.

In recent years, there has been a growing awareness that academic performance cannot be adequately described solely in terms of quantitative parameters but that other elements should be included in the evaluation: these include specific contributions to the communication of research, the establishment of methods and tools for research, concrete contributions to the promotion of early career investigators and to enhancing the quality and validity of results, and also patents (“Impact Beyond Academia”). In the clinical context, the conduct of clinical trials and the establishment of guidelines are also valuable supplementary parameters for academic achievement. When assessing scientific qualification, it is important to take into account the extent of clinical activity and time-consuming scientific committee work as well as the sheer effort involved in complying with ethical and legal requirements. Contributions that go beyond classic publications should be listed in CVs and research projects so as to raise visibility. This is why it is essential to disclose inactive periods so that these can be properly taken into account when evaluating research performance.

The comment belongs to the following categories:

GL5 (Life sciences)