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Midterm evaluations lead to continued financing for all SFF centres

International scientific committees have evaluated the 13 Centres of Excellence in research that began their activities in 2013. All the centres will receive funding for a new five-year period, but four of the centres were asked to prepare new research strategies before they were approved.

The centres that were evaluated constitute the third generation of Centres of Excellence (SFF-III), whose funding runs from 2013 to 2023. Each centre was evaluated by an international scientific committee in which two members were specialists in the centre’s field of research and two were generalists who evaluated a number of centres. After examining submitted documentation and visiting the centres, the committees evaluated the centres’ scientific quality, organisation and plans for the five-year period just concluded.

In a joint statement, the committees described the Centres of Excellence scheme as a major success, with centres that conduct research of top international quality. The centres combine methods and approaches from different areas to arrive at important results. It is well documented from similar schemes in other countries that this type of funding establishes internationally recognised research environments for training the next generation of top scientists, and this has happened in Norway as well.

Four centres were asked to submit new research strategies

Anders Hanneborg (Photo: Sverre Jarild) The committee was impressed with the quality of research and the international visibility of all the centres. At four of the centres, the committee felt that organisation could be improved. These centres were asked to present a new research strategy. Some were asked to increase their focus on synergy and collaboration between research groups while others were told to give greater emphasis to the most ground-breaking research. The centres involved have carried out a comprehensive revision process to design new strategies with the participation of researchers and institutions affiliated with the centre. All the strategies have now been approved by the Research Council of Norway.

“A thorough midterm evaluation is an important element in our follow-up of the centres,” says Anders Hanneborg, Executive Director of the Research Council’s Division for Science and the Research System. “We see that the committees have given specific and useful correctives to some of the centres. This will help them to clarify their focus and further improve quality in the second half of their time as a centre.”

Committee recommendations to the centres

In their recommendations to the centres, the experts emphasise the importance of strong, dynamic leadership that prioritises the most promising research. The centres must have a clear strategy for how to create synergy among the centre’s various research groups. The experts also highlight the importance of securing international funding and having good researcher recruitment plans.

Committee recommendations to the host institutions

In their recommendations to the host institutions, the experts emphasise the importance of providing co-localised space for the centres. This provides researchers and students with daily exposure to scientific discussions that give rise to breakthrough ideas and create a broad learning environment. The centres attract talented postdoctoral research fellows and early career researchers, the best of whom the host institutions should seek to retain, for example by offering tenure-track positions. The host institutions should also make clear the kind of support they will provide to the centres after the end of the centre period to enable the best research to continue.

Written by:
Christian Lund. Translation: Walter Gibbs/Carol B. Eckmann.
Published:
29.06.2018
Last updated:
29.06.2018