About the center
The National Center of Science and Technology Evaluation was founded on July 19, 2011. It is an arm of the Ministry of Education and Science, reporting to the Ministry's Science Committee.
The Center's objective is to insure fairness and transparency in the selection of research projects for government grants. The idea is to fund only the highest quality projects – and the projects that can most help society. Innovation is considered a hallmark of a top-flight project.
Impartial selection of research projects is aimed at improving research in Kazakhstan and making it more relevant to the country's needs. Impartial selection is also aimed at helping domestic researchers and research organizations do a better job of coming up with ideas for research and implementing those ideas.
In addition to arranging for domestic and international experts to rate research projects, the Center organizes the work of the national research councils that recommend projects for funding, and evaluates the effectiveness of research that's carried out. Research councils are set up by category, with experts in certain fields evaluating projects in those specialties.
The Center puts a lot of effort into lining up project-rating experts. The objective is to select only those experts who are tops in their fields, and who are independent and ethical.
Since the Center was established, its project-rating experts and the members of its national research councils have evaluated more than 6,500 research grant applications covering more than 10,000 subjects.
To create its proposal review process, the Center examined the best practices of eminent research-evaluation agencies around the world. They included two U.S. institutions – the National Science Founation and the National Institutes of Health -- plus the Russian Foundation for Basic Research, the Japan Agency for Science and Technology, and the National Academy of Finland.
Shortly after its founding the Center established procedures aimed at insuring that all research proposals submitted to the Ministry of Education and Science would be evaluated fairly and objectively.
The procedures had to make sense to the academic and scientific communities to foster confidence in the evaluation process. They also had to comply with legislation and government resolutions covering research-grant awards. Center staff examined the following respected international research-evaluation manuals to draw up the evaluation procedures:
• The European Peer-Review Guide. Integrating Policies and Practices into Coherent Procedures.
• Writing the NIH Grant Proposal. A Step-by-Step Guide. (Manual of the United States' National Institutes of Health.)
• The European Science Foundation Principles of Good Practice.
• Parmenides Foundation Rules for Ensuring Good Scientific Practice.
• NSF Grant Proposal Guide. (Manual of the United States' National Science Foundation.)
• NSF Grant Policy Manual.
• Academy of Finland: General Guidelines.
• Academy of Finland: Guides for Reviewers.
• Academy of Finland: Guidelines on Research Ethics.
• NIH General Guidelines.
• Ethical Principles of Research Activities: Analytical Review and Selection Process for Member States of the CIS.
In addition to establishing procedures for evaluating research proposals, the Center needed to find a way to identify the most appropriate experts to rate proposals.
It decided to use key indicators of experts' research accomplishments. These included publication activity, number of citations in research indexes, importance of the academic journals where their works were published, number of research grants obtained, patents held and other information.
To obtain information about experts' accomplishments, the Center used:
Scopus – This is the world's largest academic-citation and abstract index. The database includes more than 18,500 science, technical and medical journals published by 5,000 international publishing houses. It is updated daily.
Web of Knowledge – This is a compendium of 20 databases, including interdisciplinary and highly specialized collections of material. It has a broad scope because its databases not only list books and journal articles but also conference materials, patents, chemical formulas, electronically published works, pre-prints and grant information.
Web of Science – This is the world's most authoritative database of journal articles in science. It actually consists of three databases: Science, Social Sciences and the Arts and Humanities Citation Index. These resources include bibliographies in all publications, enabling a researcher to obtain the fullest list of references on a subject.
Derwent Innovations Index – This is a patent database. It actually combines three databases: the Derwent World Patents Index, Derwent Patents Citation Index, and Chemistry Resource. This resource allows a researcher to spot connections between patents. It also links patents to articles in the Web of Science that deal with subjects of those patents.
Medline – This is the largest database of articles about health sciences. Established by the U.S. National Library of Medicine, it covers about 75% of the world's medical publications. The database contains more than 18.8 million records, beginning with publications in 1950.
Journal Citation Reports – This database is used to compare journals. It contains information on the most authoritative academic journals in the natural and social sciences. That information includes which journals are considered the most prestigious.
SciVal Funding – This database covers international research grants. It lists grants from more than 5,000 funding sources – and who obtained the grants. SciVal Funding helps identify which researchers are recognized experts in their fields.
Reviewer Finder – This database helps identify experts in various fields through key words.
After the Center came up with a preliminary set of procedures for evaluating research and identifying experts, it discussed its proposed approaches with leading grant-issuing institutions in the United States and Europe, including the U.S. National Science Foundation, the U.S. National Institutes of Health, the Academy of Finland and the Science Foundation Ireland.
Those discussions led to some revisions in the proposed procedures. The government signed off on the procedures with authorizing resolutions, such as “The Resolution on National Research Councils.”
The Center continues to refine procedures on evaluating research and on identifying experts to rate research projects, with the goal being to make the process better and better.
One of the Center's most important tasks is providing Kazakhstan's academic and scientific communities with information that helps them do a better job of planning and implementing research projects. The overarching goal is to have Kazakhstan do world-class research.
In 2012 the Center began sponsoring workshops on preparing grant applications.
The workshop leaders were international researchers whom the Center has used to rate Kazakhstan research projects. They have included scholars from Imperial College London, the Harvard Medical School, Moscow State University, the University of California – Berkeley, the Spanish Research Council's Institute of Evolutionary Biology, Washington University of St. Louis, Oxford University, the University of Marburg, the Research Council of Argentina, the Academy of Finland and Nazarbayev University.
So far, five workshops have been held in four cities – Almaty, Astana, Uralsk and Ust-Kamenogorsk. About 2,500 researchers attended.
Another Center effort to help Kazakhstan scholars and scientists do better research is an exchange program with Great Britain.
The Center and the British Council established the Researcher Links Project in 2013, with the blessing of Kazakhstan's Ministry of Education and Science. It is aimed at increasing research cooperation between academics and scientists in the two countries
A special goal is to help young Kazakhstan researchers do joint projects with British researchers. The hope is that the exchange program leads to a long-term research-project partnership between Kazakhstan and Britain.
The first step in getting the project rolling was arranging a series of meetings between researchers from nine British universities and Kazakhstan researchers interested in joint projects. The next step will be for Kazakhstan researchers to apply for the program.
The Center plans to hold three workshops about the joint research program in Astana and Ust-Kamenogorsk.
The Center's Functions
The Center's main functions include:
-- Arranging objective evaluations of proposals for government grants in science, technology and the humanities, with an emphasis on innovative projects.
-- Identifying the most appropriate Kazakhstani and international experts to rate research grant proposals, then concluding contracts with them for the work.
-- Arranging for the various national research councils to choose the best research-grant proposals in their fields.
– Evaluating the results of the research projects that are implemented.
-- Assessing the impact on society of the research projects that are realized.