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PRIME indicators activity in perspective

The initial project recognised the unsatisfactory situation with regard to currently available indicators. The most recent developments (the CIS survey) dated from more than a decade earlier (the de facto design dating back from the mid-1980s) while a stream of new questions had been accumulating and remained unaddressed. This encouraged the indicator producers to get together to reflect on this situation. In 2004, 10 indicator producers in Europe gathered to exchange ideas about their practices and their national embedding (the ENIP structural activity). This produced a classical comparative analysis highlighting the very different institutional settings (see article published). Three conclusions emerged from this first round of work.

a) There was a growing need for indicators other than simple input-output indicators, which are statistically based and in an anonymous form. The well-known Shanghai ranking provides an illustration of this and this stimulated us to concentrate our efforts on developing ‘positioning indicators’ (see article in Research Evaluation and Dossier 3, attached CD). Such indicators are based on publicly available data and keep visible the identity of actors, reflecting on their positions and strategies. The fact that 200 firms in the world represent more than half the world total of industrial R&D illustrates the importance of such a shift. This encouraged the community to move from bringing together producers to bringing together designers of new indicators, hence the new name adopted by the network, European Network of Indicators Designers, ENID.

b) New policy issues also required the use of new data sources and the articulation of heterogeneous datasets. This led, within the framework of the ENID structural activity, to the development of an experiment focussing on the heated debate of the role of project funding within public funding. The results (see the 2007special issue in Science and Public Policy, dossier 3 of the attached CD) demonstrate the usefulness of such an approach, and the possibility of ‘designing’ new indicators within a relatively short period of time (here less than 3 years for a first round of 9 countries). This was instrumental in attracting groups from new member states and led to a second round of enlargement, the realisation of national reports (see dossier 3, attached CD) and another issue in SPP focusing on new member states (2009). Its success has been such that the approach has now been taken over by NESTI within OECD (see the 2009 proposal which is being implemented by nearly 20 countries). (see presentation in specific section)

The results have been so productive that, though we knew that the NoE would not be renewed we have pushed for specific issues dealing with new types of databases to be developed. We selected and funded two exploratory projects in 2008, UNIPUB and EUROCV, the results of which are really promising (see specific sections below and dossier 4 of the attached CD).

c) Thirdly it became clear that there was a need to foster exchanges between researchers designing new theory-based indicators, beyond the existing space for Scientometrics. PRIME initiated a first meeting in Lugano (November 2006). The success was such that ENID organisers decided to organise a similar international event every two years. PRIME thus funded the Oslo conference : with more than 100 participants and around 35 presentations and discussions, it confirmed the success of such an approach. Discussions were then held to organise ENID in a more lasting manner. The creation of a legal entity, a French not-for-profit association, was studied and officially launched at the 2008 Aix annual PRIME conference (see corresponding key event). In 2007 a first experiment of a summer school in Rome proved that there was an interest for a different type of summer school, one mixing students and scholars willing to develop a capability in mastering indicators. The second summer school in Amsterdam (September 2009, see key events) was one of the last activities of the PRIME NoE.

Thus this is a second area dealing with what we had previously identified as a second structural gap for the community at the European level, and which has now been fully addressed well beyond our initial objectives (even though we have re-shaped them from a platform of indicator producers to a platform of indicators designers). We can see signs of its success from the role played in different European expert groups by its coordinator, Benedetto Lepori.




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