Authors : Thomas Franssen
Dominant approaches to research quality rest on the assumption that academic peers are the only relevant stakeholders in its assessment. In contrast, impact assessment frameworks recognize a large and heterogeneous set of actors as stakeholders. In transdisciplinary research non-academic stakeholders are actively involved in all phases of the research process and actor-network theorists recognize a broad and heterogeneous set of actors as stakeholders in all types of research as they are assigned roles in the socio-material networks, also termed ‘problematizations’, that researchers reconfigure.
Actor-network theorists consider research as a performative act that changes the reality of the stakeholders it, knowingly or unknowingly, involves. Established approaches to, and notions of, research quality do not recognize the heterogeneity of relevant stakeholders nor allow for reflection on the performative effects of research.
To enrich the assessment of research quality this article explores the problematization as a potential new object of evaluation. Problematizations are proposals for how the future might look. Hence, their acceptance does not only concern fellow academics but also all other human and other-than-human actors that figure in them.
To enrich evaluative approaches, this article argues for the inclusion of stakeholder involvement and stakeholder representation as dimensions of research quality.
It considers a number of challenges to doing so including the identification of stakeholders, developing quality criteria for stakeholder involvement and stakeholder representation, and the possibility of participatory research evaluation. It can alternatively be summarized as raising the question: for whose benefit do we conduct evaluations of research quality?