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Mapping and assessment of research portfolios

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New methods to better assess research portfolios in science

The term research portfolio is increasingly used by funding agencies, but there is no clear understanding and very little research on how to define, map and assess it. An EU initiative introduced an exploratory approach to examine research portfolios.

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With EU funding, the MAPREPORT (Mapping and assessment of research portfolios) project developed frameworks and tools for analysing research portfolios. Work began with a literature review, followed by the creation of a general conceptual framework for research portfolios in science policy. Findings show that the use of the research portfolio approach when addressing grand challenges such as climate change or obesity should recognise the diversity of research lines relevant to a particular societal challenge, given the uncertainty and ambiguity of research outcomes. It should also examine the relationships between research options of a portfolio and the expected societal outcomes, and adopt a holistic perspective to a research portfolio that examines it as a functional whole rather than the sum of its parts. MAPREPORT conducted three case studies on research portfolios, covering avian influenza, obesity and rice. For avian influenza, different options of the portfolio are prioritised by different institutional drivers, for example public labs, universities or pharma companies. Global obesity research focuses on biology and medical research, with relatively fewer efforts devoted to public health and psychological or social science approaches. Rice research is only partly explained by societal demands. In most countries where rice is a main staple and represents an important nutrition and caloric source, they do not specialise in rice research related to nutrition. Project partners developed methods to assess the value of research with a broader range of criteria than traditional bibliometric tools which are increasingly seen as insufficient for evaluating most research. To achieve this, they interviewed stakeholders. Thanks to MAPREPORT, funding agencies and large public scientific institutions may be better able in the future to characterise the research they support.


Research portfolios, MAPREPORT, science policy, avian influenza, obesity, rice

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