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Interest in and demand for the evaluation of research is increasing internationally. This is linked to a growing accountability agenda, driven by the demand for good governance and management growing in profile on national and international stages and fiscal austerity in a number of countries. There is a need to show that policymaking is evidence based and, particularly in the current economic climate, to demonstrate accountability for the investment of public funds in research. This is complemented by a shift in emphasis from purely summative evaluations, which have traditionally characterised the assessment of research, to more formative evaluations, as well as more comprehensive evaluations that cover wider outputs from research outside the standard measures, such as numbers and quality of publications.

Given this growing need for effective and appropriate evaluation of research, it is increasingly important to understand how research can and should be evaluated in different contexts and to meet different needs.

This report provides a guide to the key considerations in developing an approach to research evaluation. It outlines the trade-offs that have to be taken into account and the contextual factors that need to be understood, drawing on experience of international approaches to research evaluation. In addition, a detailed overview of six research evaluation frameworks is provided, along with a brief overview of a further eight frameworks, and discussion of the main tools used in research evaluation. The report is likely to be of interest to policymakers, research funders, institutional leaders and research managers.

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The research described in this report was prepared for the Association of American Medical Colleges and conducted by RAND Europe.

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