Scientific Coordinator for Research Quality in Objective 3: Advancing Research Quality and Value
Aug 31, 2020
The partner institutions of the Berlin University Alliance are pursuing a common strategy of developing and promoting the value, quality, integrity, and credibility of research. To this end, Freie Universität Berlin, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Technische Universität Berlin, and Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin are pooling together their activities in this area and are working on questions of research quality related to the interplay between disciplinary cultures, research organizations and the public within the framework of Advancing Research Quality and Value (Objective 3). Nele Albrecht has been the scientific coordinator for research quality ever since May 2020. She was previously employed as a personal advisor to the Berlin head of department at the German Center for Higher Education Research and Science Studies and coordinator for the Robert K. Merton Center for Science Studies at Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin.
Ms Albrecht, why is research quality particularly important in the excellence alliance?
The interest in research quality is considerable on several fronts – and within reason. Numerous cases of scientific fraud that have emerged in recent years, the debate concerning the lack of reproducibility of key research results, the assessment of research performance with the assistance of quantitative indicators – to name just a few examples – have not only significantly sparked the discussion of improving research quality; they have also brought the topic into the public eye. The discussion must continue in a sustainable and informed manner, both among the members of the research community and outside of it. This way, the measures that will lead to an actual improvement in research quality can be identified.
This is a central yet vital goal as understanding and defining research quality or its deviations can differ greatly depending on the respective discipline, research culture, and other factors. At the same time, however, the subject matter encompasses individual, institutional as well as scientific and funding policy levels, all of which are not to be considered separate from each other.
The Berlin University Alliance is the only funded consortium in the German federal and state government’s Excellence Strategy that finds itself in the privileged position of being able to make full use of the expertise of four partners and discuss issues of research quality as well as standards via these institutions with their wide array of disciplines. The institutions are also closely linked to the Berlin hub of research, which can and should be incorporated into the Berlin University Alliance’s activities. Besides this exchange, “research on research” in particular should lead to the discovery of suitable measures for improving research quality and their implementation together with and among all four partner institutions.
Since May, you have been working as an scientific coordinator for research quality. What was the biggest challenge initially?
I started working for the Berlin University Alliance while COVID-19 measures were being implemented at the universities. This meant that I went straight into the home office and was trained remotely. On top of this, I was only able to get to know my new colleagues via e-mail, telephone or video conferencing. That was initially strange, but I was actually surprised by how well the work changeover worked. And I am still thrilled by the willingness of everyone involved to get on board and support me in my work for the objective.
What are your main responsibilities?
As an academic coordinator I work at the interface between the research and administrative levels: On the one hand, I am responsible for the development and implementation of live projects in close cooperation with the Objective 3 scientific steering committee. I ensure that there is interaction between the objective’s actors, which includes the leaders of the projects that have already commenced, as well as the Administrative Office. I am also on hand to answer any questions on subject matter or administrative processes the unit`s staff may have. On top of this, I take on networking tasks with relevant actors both from within and outside the Berlin University Alliance.
We are currently working on establishing junior researcher groups and a call for proposals on Open Science and research quality. A colloquium series will also be held in the near future in order to improve the communication and link between the different projects associated with the objective.
Do you also interact with the other objectives and cross-cutting themes (CCTs)?
The topic of research quality runs through all objectives and CCTs. This is why we are currently looking to identify tangible interfaces and cooperation opportunities. Of course, the cooperation works both ways: On the one hand, insights gained in our field should be made available to the other objectives. At the same time, we draw on the expertise of our colleagues with respect to the various topics. Most recently, we have seen tangible collaboration in preparing for the establishment of the junior research groups, as the interest in this has evolved across many of the objectives and CCTs. With Objective 5: Sharing Ressources, however, we find ourselves in continuous exchange, particularly in the area of Open Science and research data management.
What are you particularly looking forward to in your role?
I think being able to establish the Berlin University Alliance as a new entity on the Berlin, national and international research area will be an exciting challenge. I am also looking forward to being able to meet so many interesting people and to have the opportunity to take part in a broad exchange of ideas, not only within the Alliance.