New evaluation tool values research from the global south

15th August 2018

Canada's International Development Research Centre (IDRC) have recently announced a new research evaluation tool 'Research Quality Plus (RQ+)' which will give more importance to local context when determining the legitimacy of research. 

In an article from the journal 'Nature', Jean Lebel (IDRC president) and Robert McLean (an IDRC senior program specialist) describe the limitations of measuring research by scholarly and social citations, and the challenge this poses to researchers from the global south. Lebel and McLean discuss the bias towards English-speaking journals that are based in the United States and Western Europe, which are deemed to have higher impact than journals published in other languages, and from other countries. 

There is also a need to value work that is locally-specific, and to not solely focus on globally-relevant research, suggest Lebel and McLean. 

Their proposed RQ+ method is based on three principles:

  • Identifying contextual factors, instead of isolating the research from the context
  • Articulating dimensions of quality (for example, for IDRC these are scientific integrity, legitimacy, importance and positioning for use.)
  • Using rubrics and empirical evidence to come to systematic and comparable assessments

As conclusions from IDRC's testing period, Lebel and McLean note that Southern-only research tends to be of high quality and showed itself to be legitimate and well-positioned for use.  They also conclude that capacity strengthening played a key role in the highest quality research and that it's possible for research to be both rigorous and useful. In addition, their studies found that gender needed to be taken into consideration across all disciplines, not just in fields which focus on women and girls.  

You can read the full article on the Nature website, including the suggested limitations of the tool and what's next. Jean Lebel has also conducted a Q&A session with SciDev which discusses the tool further, and explains some of the background to the method.

Photo credit: uganda field trials2_lo | Neil Palmer (CIAT) | Flickr