Publication Forum started operating in 2010, first in project form. The decision to establish the Forum was based on persistent work to develop research quality assessment, started in the mid-90s as universities took over result-oriented management models.
Increase in publication-based share of appropriations
Universities have reported their publication statistics to the Ministry of Education since 1994 but as late as the early 2000s the research results were still measured in terms of the number of PhDs and the amount of centres of excellence chosen by the Academy of Finland. The aim was to shift the focus from education to research. The keywords were result-orientation, quality and impact, and this meant that the tools for measuring research operations had to become more versatile. This required development in the recording and evaluation of university-produced scholarly publications, and above all, the inclusion of publications as a criterion for result-based funding.
Scholarly publications (excluding those in university series) were introduced to the university funding appropriation model in 2007, but first only on purely quantitative terms. Until 2009, 0.3% of the basic funding of universities was granted on the basis of publications.
In 2010–2012 the number of publications accounted for 1.7% of the basic funding of universities. In this period, international referee publications were weighted slightly higher than other publications but this division of publications was still considered to be inadequate as a quality indicator, as well as biased in favour of Medicine and Sciences. Indeed, the increase in the appropriations based on publications called for increased attention to reliable publication data and quality aspects.
Quality assessment methods compared
The founding of the Publication Forum was preceded by a survey made by the Ministry of Education and Culture which looked into the publication practices of various disciplines, the usability of university publication data as well as foreign models of publication quality assessment. In 2006 Norway had introduced a model based on publication channel classification levels, later also adopted by Finland. The model was described in the 2007 project report entitled "Usability of bibliometric data in the assessment of the quality and productivity of university publications". Published the following year, the report by the TiedeKOTA Working Group contained the first preliminary proposal for a system where expert panels would evaluate the scientific level and appreciation enjoyed by publication channels among the research community. The policy report on the evaluation of the Finnish innovation system (pdf), finalised in 2009 on assignment of Ministry of Education and Ministry of Employment and the Economy, recommended that academic publications be weighed using a quality index.
The Council of Rectors of Finnish universities (current Universities Finland UNIFI) instituted a working group in 2009 to prepare a proposal for quality assessment development. Based on the TiedeKOTA report, the UNIFI Working Group proposed that a system following the Norwegian and Danish models be established, based on a quality classification of publication channels. According to the report by the working group, citation analyses and indicators are widely used in the fields of Sciences and Medicine to assess the value of research. However, academic citation indexes do not cover most of the publications in Technology and Engineering, and even less so in Social Sciences and Humanities. The advantage of a publication channel classification over citation analyses is that one classification uses the same criteria to cover all disciplines with their particular publication practices, and that the evaluation work is carried out by the research community. In addition to the funding model, there were other factors pushing for the development of a classification: evaluation of the development of the universities’ in-house operations and their comparison with other universities as well as increased quality-awareness among researchers.
TSV becomes responsible for Publication Forum
In line with the proposal made by UNIFI, the Ministry of Education and Culture funded the Publication Forum project in 2010–2012. Being an independent organisation with a wide representation of the scientific community through its member societies, Federation of Finnish Learned Societies (TSV) was found to be a suitable hosting organisation for the project. TSV’s Board appointed the Steering Group for Publication Forum which, in turn, recruited the Secretariat and appointed the 23 science field-specific Expert Panels. The first classification was published towards the end of the project in 2012. A decision was then made to assign the continued maintenance and development of the classification to TSV as a permanent part of its operations. Through the project to collect publication data (the so-called JURE project) and the development of the Publication Forum classification, the share accounted for by the publications of all university funding grew to 13% in 2013.
For more details, see the Final report of the Publication Forum project (2010-2012).