CfP and Conference Announcement: Research Evaluation for SSH

14. Jan 2015

Qualitative and Quantitative Indicators for Performance and Social Impact under Scrutiny

ZSI has been asked by the organisers to promote the Call for Papers for the conference RESSH 2015 (Research Evaluation for the Social Sciences and the Humanities) which can be submitted till January 31, 2015.

The conference takes place in Rennes, France on 4-6 June 2015.

Website: Link

The Social Sciences and Humanities, along with studies of their societal impact, have become a major theme on the research agenda as Europe seeks to bring SSH research to the fore in an embedding process within Horizon 2020. For Horizon 2020 and all the spin-off national programmes to be successful, it is vital to understand and where necessary improve current evaluation processes and how this affects the SSH.

The development of modern evaluation protocols is rooted in policy decisions aiming to improve research and the research system as a whole. However, the implementation of such policy has attracted a great deal of criticism in the form of position papers from SSH scholars and also from other fields. In addition, research articles from evaluation specialists have pointed to some of the negative outcomes. Most salient perhaps in the last decade is the criticism that evaluation policy focusing on excellence only leads towards a variety of perverse effects – publish or perish – instead of improving the quality and societal impact of research. Although the evaluation of research is constitutive of modern research itself, a link can be established between the development of sciences in XVIIth century and the functionality of the first peer evaluation practices, which appeared simultaneously. Thus it is through looking at the contemporary and the past that practical outcomes can result in better understanding of the mechanisms behind SSH research, its social impacts and the inherent notions of quality.

Between new and old, useful or dangerous, the idea of research evaluation in the SSH appears to remain a bone of contention rather than an object of study with some questioning whether a formal evaluation process should occur at all. The purpose of this conference is to start moving towards a more dispassionate approach, trying to understand the need for evaluation from an epistemic point of view. In less theoretical terms, the main question of the conference is whether evaluation can be useful to SSH researchers, whether it seeks to improve the quality and relevance of research or whether it is simply a management tool for the allocation of funds or imposition of policy.

Track 1: Permanencies and shifts in SSH research evaluation

A first series of topics that can be investigated in this respect are where and when the need for evaluation manifested itself, and what forms it took. Historical perspectives on the origin, goals and implementation of evaluation protocols in different countries are welcome: political background, sociological configuration of the research field, and of researchers groups in society, position of academia towards the exercise, etc. More specifically, the place given to the evaluation of the SSH research is to be regarded in this perspective, in comparison with protocols and implementation of evaluation in the natural and biomedical fields.

Particular attention will be devoted to the new criteria for the societal relevance of SSH research, and to the circumstances through which this has  recently become an important lens in several evaluation protocols.

Track 2. From research practices to research evaluation in the SSH

As with all sciences, the notion of  “SSH” covers a very broad spectrum of disciplines. In terms of research evaluation, there is an obvious need to understand the differences and commonalities between these disciplines in terms of research practices, dissemination and their capacity to speak to the society. A balance is obviously needed between understanding the variety of SSH disciplines, and the need for a homogeneous, fair and easily applicable evaluation system. Evaluation research and practice cannot but benefit from a better understanding of what is of interest to the SSH scholars themselves, and what they consider to be their mission and role.

The conference is therefore particularly interested in case studies which aim to show how scholars see quality and societal relevance in their own field, and how this is achieved. The papers should take into consideration the question as to whether existing evaluation protocols are in phase with SSH scholars’ representations of quality and relevance, and try to imagine how these protocols should evolve so as to better engage with the SSH community's points of view.

A second series of questions concerns the role of evaluation in knowledge production processes. What are the effects of the various forms of evaluation (top-down external procedures, or self-organised evaluations) on these processes? Were these effects foreseeable, expected or desired? Why do these effects occur? How are they related to the specific context of a discipline and to research practices and assumptions about research quality and relevance?

Track 3. New developments in methods and tools for SSH evaluation

It is often claimed that certain methods and tools employed for the evaluation of research in natural sciences are ill adapted to the SSH. Criticisms include the fact that in spite of recent efforts to improve them, the coverage of SSH journals in the international databases (WoS, Scopus…) remains poor. Impact factors give a very questionable perspective about dissemination channels in the SSH research and their notoriety. Citation indexes are, in turn, impaired by the differences in time and nature of bibliographies used in the SSH. All these aspects point to a need to rethink the means of gathering quantitative data on the SSH, and how to render evaluation judgements more objective, whilst accepting that the possibility, or even the desirability, of a “perfect” objectiveness is illusory. There is no doubt that the various initiatives for a better coverage of SSH production and the production of new indicators has stimulated controversy. 

This track welcomes papers presenting new developments in the methods of evaluation of the SSH, whether qualitative or quantitative. Information about databases for the SSH, adaptation of metrics to SSH disciplines, altmetrics, improvements of existent peer-review based protocols, open access for the SSH and their contribution to tracking the SSH impact, and so on, are welcome. Also of interest are papers that question whether metrics, or indeed evaluation, can indeed be used in all fields of the SSH.

Three types of proposals can be submitted:

- proposals for paper presentations
- proposal for round-table discussions
- proposal for poster presentations

Paper presentations allow for 15 minutes of presentation with a lengthy questions and debate section at the end of each session.
Roundtables  gather 4 to 6 panellists, for maximum 45 minutes of presentations, followed by minimum 45 minutes of discussion with the attendees.
Posters  cannot exceed the A1 format, A2 being the more usual one. A dedicated poster session is scheduled on the first day of the conference.

Proposals are managed through EasyChair. Please, follow this link:

RESSH 2015 Paper Submission

Please go to the submission page for more information.

The deadline for proposal is the 31st January 2015. Acceptance of proposals will be notified to authors by the 1st March 2015.


31 January 2015 : Submission deadline.
1 March 2015 : Notification of acceptance.
1 February 2015: Early Bird registration opens.
1 May 2015 : Full price registrat

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Tags: evaluation, humanities, impact, social sciences

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