Advanced knowledge societies invest vast amounts of resources in research because it is considered to be a source of richness, prosperity, social progression and investment in a better future for the generations to come. Research planning in all areas (public, private, and philanthropic) must be aimed at this last purpose, which in the case of health sciences means access to more and better health through research. Therefore, it is important to achieve the intermediate task (generating knowledge) and the final one (improving health).
One of the fundamental ways of supporting the planning, prioritization, and distribution of resources in research is through assessment. We perform assessments to ensure that the research carried out meets high quality standards, but also to reinforce the desired impact produced by the research work. That is why it is essential to use clear strategic assessment criteria that are closely related to the subject of the research being assessed.
The research assessment carried out by AQuAS is aimed at fostering a greater and better social impact, beyond excellence, which is a necessary factor, but alone is not enough. This comprises ex-ante assessment (that is, assessment prior to developing the research), ongoing assessment performed while research is being carried out, ex-post assessment at the time the programme is coming to a close, and impact assessment, which is done later after a certain time.
Assessments are performed on the following levels: (1) per subject areas, disciplines, health problems, or geographical areas; (2) per research programmes, such as the PERIS (Health Research and Innovation Strategic Plan) grants to finance health research, or the grants for La Marató de TV3 (television charity project); and (3) per institutes, universities or foundations, either according to lines of research, research groups, or projects, among others.
AQuAS has a comprehensive approach towards achieving an impact on health through assessment, training, examination and empowerment because it addresses two systems that partially overlap - the health system and the health research system. This means that this assessment approach enjoys greater synergies that are not present in other scientific assessment agencies.
Some clear examples are the fact that the Results Centre acts as a comprehensive accountability instrument both in the field of care and the research area. And the fact that the data analysis is used both for communicating needs and detecting gaps in knowledge, and also to transfer cross-data from the health system for research in centres and institutes across Catalonia through the PADRIS project, using priority criteria including those related to impact, strategy, and responsible research.
Regarding the foundational aspects (historical and current), AQuAS research assessment offers differential aspects compared to “traditional” scientific research agencies. These include the following:
- Accountability and transparency.
- Promoting need detection and prioritization mechanisms for research.
- Fostering the involvement of non-scientific actors.
- Emphasis on “science of science” to identify points to be improved (in the process, the system, assessment criteria, and incentives).
- Seeking the best assessment criteria from the non-academic side of science.
- Training and skill development in research impacte assessment.
- A community of local and international practice.