Research Evaluation

Research evaluation conducted at GIUB for the period 2010-2018

In the context of the quality assurance processes of the University of Bern, an evaluation of the research of the Institute of Geography (GIUB) was conducted. The whole process took about 16 months from the first preparatory meetings in February 2019 to the submission of all reports to the faculty and the university in May 2020. GIUB is the first Institute in the Phil.-nat faculty to conduct a research evaluation using the guidelines of the university.

We summarise the procedure into five parts:

A. Prior preparatory work: At the outset, the QSE commission of GIUB took on the task and became the research evaluation committee comprising two professors, representatives of the early- and mid-career researchers and the students’ council but also extended to include all research unit leaders.
In the preparatory phase, we clarified the framework conditions and expected outputs, with the support of the faculty (Dr. Daniela Schmieder and Prof. Dr. Jörg Hermann), the Vice-rectorate Research (Mr. Jürg Friedli) and the Vice-rectorate Quality (Ms. Claudia Saalfrank).

B. The GIUB’s self-evaluation report (PDF, 2.4 MB): We defined the evaluation period as 2010–2018. Then we wrote a self-evaluation of our research based on information from annual reports and newsletters, publications data, financial data from the institute and the contributions of the research unit leaders as well as other GIUB-peer groups.
The self-evaluation of research report then went through various iterations and discussions within the commission and within GIUB peer-groups before we completed it in December 2019 and dispatched to the external peers, whom we had notified some six months earlier.

C. The site-visit of external peers: The site-visit in Bern lasted two days from 11.-12.02.2020. The program consisted of panel meetings for the three external peers, inputs by GIUB staff, the Rector and the Dean, guided tours through the chemical laboratory and the Media Lab of GIUB, discussion panels between the external peers and the research committee as well as separate discussions with GIUB-peer groups (students, early- and middle career researchers). The evaluation focussed on the assessment of the current situation, the question of defining a sharper profile and development opportunities, the evaluation of current structures, research activities and results.

D. Report of the external peers: Based on the two-day visit and the 46-page report “Self-Evaluation of the Research at GIUB”, the three external peers wrote a 4-page review report. The external evaluation yielded a very positive assessment of research at GIUB and made seven recommendations on the following:

  1. To nourish the “Bernese spirit” of Geography that includes “close collaboration within the institute, a high level of interdisciplinarity in research (and teaching), and carrying and communicating a vision of how geography can communicate knowledge for socio-ecological transformation towards a sustainable and just world into society”.
  2. To continue cooperation with the university centres, including the newly established Wyss Academy for Nature, many of which GIUB-professors contributed in creating.
  3. To ensure that all the ten research units of GIUB are led by a professor (associate or full).
  4. To develop and communicate a clear and transparent procedure for promotions from associate to full professorships.
  5. To maintain its level of external funding of at least 50% of cantonal funding. They thus suggested that GIUB seeks another major interdisciplinary project funding in the style of an NCCR to be led by a GIUB full professor.
  6. To explore ways to continue the very successful intra-institute collaboration by reducing the four research clusters to two and possibly relate these to digitalisation.
  7. To balance better the growing administrative and professional demands (teaching and research) and ensuring good working conditions, as well as personal and family situations and obligations.

E. The GIUB-Action-plan: Based on these seven recommendations, the GIUB-commission formulated an action plan, which will help to implement the recommendations. The action plan includes actions, action levels at which the action are to be implemented, the review time and the responsibilities for implementation and review at GIUB. Most of the actions take place at the institute level, whereas three measures need discussions at faculty or university level.

The three documents - the self-evaluation, the peer-evaluation and the action plan - were then submitted to the faculty and the university vice rectorate research and quality.

Lessons learnt:

Database of essential institute variables for the next evaluation: Data collection needed to conduct the self-evaluation report was very time consuming. There was no database available at the institute level, so for future evaluations we now have a database / annual reporting of essential variables.

Rewarding collaboration: Although the collaborative working mode involves additional time and administrative effort, it allowed different viewpoints to be taken into account and to generate a final product with which all GIUB staff could identify.

Managing expectations: It was a learning experience being the first institute to conduct a research evaluation using the new university guidelines. It is thus important to clarify expectations and deadlines early in the process and leave room for flexibility.

External peer review and site visit: The integration of external peers allowed an unbiased external view of the current situation and the challenges ahead. This resulted in good discussions and suggestions. The site visit provided the opportunity for the external peers to get to know GIUB better, to clarify questions they had and offered opportunity for discussions between the external peers and GIUB members.

Members of the research evaluation commission:

  • Chair: Prof. Dr. Chinwe Ifejika Speranza, QSE-Coach Geosciences (Geography)
  • QSE-Research assistant: Aline Wicki; GIUB-Stab: Tom Reist
  • Members: Prof. Dr. Olivia Romppainen-Martius, Deputy QSE-Coach Geography; Prof. Dr. Jean-David Gerber, Prof. Dr. Heinz Veit, Prof. Dr. Susan Thieme, Representatives of the teaching staff; unit leaders, Institute's Directorate;
  • Representatives of upper mid-career researchers: Dr. Martina Kauzlaric, Dr. Andreas Zischg
  • Representatives of early-career researchers: Dr. Alexander Vorbrugg, Dr. Andrea Winiger, Dr. Gabriela Debrunner
  • Student representative: Vera Girod
  • QSE-Assistant of the Phil.-nat faculty: Dr. D. Schmieder
  • The following persons were consulted as required: Dr. Jürg Friedli, Vice-Rectorate Quality; Dr. Carsten Knigge, Staff University Management, Evaluation and Accreditation.

Evaluation of Study Program 2021

Based on a large online survey conducted in the autumn semester of 2019, strengths and weaknesses of the 2013 curriculum and its partial adaptation in 2016 have been evaluated. In contrast to the data collection for the 2013 evaluation, the 2019 survey was aimed at geography students (major and minor) and GIUB lecturers.

The report «Evaluation of Geography Study Programmes 2019 – 2021» is structured according to the three main criteria 1.) Quality of teaching, 2.) Relevance to society and 3.) Capacity for development.

Under this link we present the summary of the most important measures that will be developed for the improvement of the new curriculum (from HS 2023). The report is available on the german site.