EvalHum brings together evaluation specialists, institutional stakeholders, and, most important, SSH researchers so as to take a fresh look at why evaluation is carried out and how it can best be achieved while respecting the characteristics of individual disciplines.

The EvalHum Initiative seeks to promote research in the Social Sciences and the Humanities (SSH) through improved evaluation procedures that are adapted to SSH research and communication practices. It takes into account local, regional and national initiatives and perspectives in addition to those emerging at European and International levels. It brings together researchers and stakeholders concerned with evaluation, impact and innovation within the SSH. Its role is to act as a centre of expertise in all matters affecting SSH research evaluation, with a strong commitment to the sharing of knowledge and the development of best practices. The community endeavours to bring together participants in the evaluation research, scholars within the SSH concerned with evaluation, as well as all other stakeholders such as funding institutions, university representatives, publishers, etc.

Research evaluation in the fields of the social sciences and humanities raises specific problems and faces specific difficulties. It is not only a delicate issue on the level of acceptance by SSH scholars but also evaluators and bibliometricians raise doubts on the adequacy of some often applied quantitative procedures and tools used for (support of) evaluation. These issues have been neglected over a long period of time. However, the changes in the higher education system worldwide, i.e. new public management and the notion of accountability, focus on frontier research, have brought it to the fore.

SSH researchers represent roughly 30% of the human resources of universities, thus constituting an important part of university research staff. However, SSH research is heavily marginalised in national and international research funding and not on the top of the research agenda in science policy. If present in high profile funding instruments, SSH often only serve to complement research in the “hard” natural and life sciences when there should be greater collaboration and awareness of different disciplines, in particular in the context of today’s societal challenges. Therefore, there is an acute need for better understanding the full role and potential of the SSH in academia as well as in society at large. At EvalHum, we believe this can be achieved through the conception of fair, robust and adequate evaluation procedures, rooted in the SSH field’s research practices. Such evaluation will have, in return, an effect on the entire research ecosystem.

Evaluation of SSH research is not just about indicators for SSH output, it concerns all aspects of research where notions of quality come into play. It includes innovation and impact, both socio-cultural and economic, as well as European processes such as Responsible Research and Innovation or the Human Resources Strategy for Researchers – HRS4R. These are all evaluative areas where the role and place of the SSH is primordial and are key factors in building the European Research Area.

The initiative brings together scholars concerned with the essential questions of who evaluates, why evaluation is carried out and what are the effects on Social Science and Humanities research, with a focus on the differences in all these aspects related to the specificities of the particular evaluated fields. The initiative’s main belief is that evaluation is not only to be seen as a research object or a managerial issue, but as a fact of research life in which the main stakeholders, the researchers themselves, must be involved in order to come to meaningful results and insights.