Observatory for monitoring R+D+i at Spanish universities is launched

The Observatory of Spanish University Research (Observatorio de la Actividad Investigadora de la Universidad Española – IUNE) has been launched. This Observatory is a database, whcih allows the R+D+i activities at public and private Spanish universities to be seen and analysed using 6 categories of data and 42 indicators. This initiative, coordinated by the Laboratory for Metric Information Studies (Laboratorio de Estudios Métricos de la Información – LEMI) at Carlos III University of Madrid, has been developed as part of Alianza 4 Universidades (A-4U), which also includes Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona and Universidad Autónoma de Madrid.

iUNE Observatory is the most complete platform for evaluating scientific activity and knowledge transfer that currently exists within the Spanish university system, since – according to its creators, a team of more than twenty researchers from A-4U – it includes dimensions that are not dealt with in other national or international rankings. Having initially been financed by the Ministry of Science and Innovation, it currently receives support from the Ministry of Education, which considers this laboratory the official source for indicators of research undertaken in Spanish university system.

With this tool, the most significant results of scientific and innovation activities taking place at 73 Spanish universities (48 public and 25 private) can be seen. The dynamic open web platform that has been created (www.iune.es) allows the user to visualize data from a set period and obtain graphics automatically. To do this, the platform is based on a range of 42 clear, simple, and comparable indicators of university activity, grouped into 6 categories, such as the number of professors, the recognition that they obtained, the characteristics of their scientific activities (production, productivity, collaboration, impact, visibility, etc.), their competitiveness in obtaining projects, innovation (patents, licenses, spin-offs, etc.), and the education capacity of the institutions they do research for (scholarships, aid, contracts, thesis, etc.)

Information provided in these six categories dates back to 2001 and is updated annually on all of the indicators obtained, thanks to the data that is gathered from contrasted and accessible information sources, such as the Centre for the Development of Industrial Technology (Centro para el Desarrollo Técnico Industrial – CDTI), National Commission for the Evaluation of Research Activity (Comisión Nacional Evaluadora de la Actividad Investigadora – CNEAI), Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology (Fundación Española para la Ciencia y la Tecnología – FECYT), National Statistics Institute (Instituto Nacional de Estadística – INE), Spanish Patent and Trademark Office (Oficina Española de Patentes y Marcas – OEPM), Office for the Transfer of Research Results Network (Red OTRI), and Web for Science platform, among others.

Increasing productivity in Spanish universities

This set of variables enables the measurement of different aspects of research activity. “By using these indicators, each university can determine the characteristics of its activity and examine its position within the Spanish university system, based on its scientific activity or the subject areas it wishes to analyse”, explains Professor Elias Sanz, coordinator of iUNE Observatory and head of UC3M Laboratory for Metric Information Studies (LEMI). “With the creation of the Observatory – he adds – an attempt is being made to overcome the complete and systematic lack of information that exists with regard to the scientific activity being carried out at Spanish universities”.

The results obtained show, for example, an overall annual increase in productivity at all universities. At the end of the analysed period, this increase reaches 95.31% since year 2002. “It is interesting to see that 5 of the 10 most productive universities are small, which shows that it is useful to weigh the absolute values of publications by the number of professors”, comments Professor Elias Sanz.

In order to develop iUNE, to which various research groups from the universities involved have dedicated over three years of work, guidelines have been adopted, which must follow the classification of universities, both in the international context and within Spain. In addition, it has been decided that the Berlin principles will continue to be followed in the creation of rankings of this type, which have become a useful tool for evaluating activities in higher education institutions.

More information can be found on iUNE website.